'Bond': Defining the Limits of Federal Police Power
This is the very ecstasy of love, Whose violent property foredoes itself, And leads the will to desperate undertakings. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, II.i.99-101.
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Bond v. United States, a case addressing a fundamental question of federalism: When it comes to federal prosecutions, when does the government go too far?
The case arose inauspiciously in a small town in Pennsylvania and followed a winding road over seven years to the Supreme Court – twice. The case's mundane origin – at the epicenter of a love triangle dominated by a betrayed wife – belied its significance Carol Anne Bond caused a minor injury to Myrlinda Haynes – formerly her best friend and subsequently Bond's husband's pregnant lover – with a compound of toxic chemicals. Federal prosecutors charged her with a federal crime based on the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which bans the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. The court in Bond found that in making this ill-advised charging decision, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania violated the constitutional boundary separating state and federal police powers. The question now is to what extent Bond will form the basis for future challenges of federal charges involving crimes traditionally left to the states.
In 2006, Carol Anne Bond learned that her best friend, Myrlinda Haynes, was pregnant. She was happy to hear it until she learned that the father was her husband of 14 years. Bond vowed revenge. Using an arsenic-based compound she stole from the chemical manufacturing company where she worked and a chemical she ordered from Amazon.com, Bond mixed a compound that she hoped would give Haynes a bad rash. (The parties agreed Bond did not intend to kill Haynes.) She tried to use the compound about two dozen times mostly without success, ultimately managing to cause a minor burn on Haynes' thumb by putting the mixture on the handle of Haynes' car door. After that injury, Haynes asked the local police for help. They told her to wash her car.
1. 134 S. Ct. 2077 (2014).
2. United States v. Bond, 581 F.3d 128, 131-32 (3d Cir. 2009), rev'd, 131 S. Ct. 2355, 180 L. Ed. 2d 269 (2011); Jeremy Roe-buck, "U.S. Supreme Court: Not Terrorism, Just a Love Triangle," The Philadelphia Inquirer (June 4, 2004), http://articles.philly.com/2014-06-04/news/50304534_1_clifford-bond-myrlin-da-haynes-chemical-weapon.
3. Roebuck, supra note 2.