OTHER VOICES

What do a family dispute and chemical weapons treaty have in common?

Posted Nov. 14, 2013, at 11:02 a.m.

The Supreme Court last week considered a case involving two family disputes. One was a love triangle that turned dangerous. The other was the perpetual push-and-pull between the states and the federal government to define their proper roles. The justices must make sure they do not aggravate the latter in addressing the former.

In 2006 and 2007, Carol Anne Bond tried to poison the mother of her husband’s child.

Federal authorities tried her for violating a law Congress passed to bring the United States into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty meant to eliminate the use of weapons of mass destruction.

This ridiculous overcharge should have never happened. Federal officials should have left it to local authorities to pursue lesser, more appropriate charges against Bond. Instead, Bond served six years in federal prison.

Now, she is challenging her conviction by claiming that the government intruded into a state matter.

In response, the federal government made a strong case that it must have authority to enforce treaties.

Both sides are right. Bond’s crime had nothing to do with chemical weapons as normally understood, and the feds shouldn’t have charged her as if it did. But the federal government does have an obligation to make sure treaties are enforced. We hope the justices find a way to rebuke the overreach without undermining the authority of the president and Congress to negotiate and apply treaties.

The Washington Post (Nov. 11)

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