The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a 10th Amendment case that is being carefully watched by tea-party activists and conservatives. The question before the court is whether an individual can bring a legal challenge based on the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. The 10th Amendment provides that states or "the people" retain powers the Constitution neither delegates to the federal government nor prohibits state governments from exercising. Carol Anne Bond suffered an emotional breakdown after she found out that her best friend, Myrlinda Hayes, was carrying a baby fathered by her husband. Bond, a microbiologist, repeatedly tried to poison Hayes with a mixture of chemicals. Hayes was unable to get local authorities involved since her injuries were minor. Hayes was able to pursuade federal law enforcement officials to investigate and they eventually charged Bond with violating the domestic enforcement statutes of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, an international treaty signed by the United States in 1997. Bond was sentenced under the statute to six years in prison, five years of supervised probation, $2,000 in fines and $10,000 in restitution. Under Pennslvania law, Bond's punishment would have lasted between 3 to 25 months. Bond appealed claiming that Congress lacked the authority to punish her for the chemical assaults. The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that Bond lacked standing to raise the claim and that only state officials had the right to raise this claim. Bond appealed to the United States Supreme Court and the Justice Department refused to enforce the Third District Court's opinion that only the state officials had standing to raise 10th Amendment issues. Both the Justice Department and Bond's attorneys agree that individual's should have the right to raise 10th Amendment issues. They differ on how broadly this right should be applied. In order to defend the Third Circuit Court's opinion, the Supreme Court
appointed an independent attorney to advocate the position set forth in the Third Circuit Court's opinion. But the questions raised by the Justices during yesterday's oral arguments suggest that the court will be ruling that individuals have the right to raise 10th Amendment issues. It will be interesting to see how far the court will to with their decision and what the practical effects of the decision will have defendants facing federal criminal charges.
A decision is expected this summer.
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