Supreme Court hears soap opera story of interest to the tea party

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 12:14 PM

The cataclysmic events that led Carol Anne Bond to prison and now to the Supreme Court began with thrilling news: Her best friend was pregnant.

That was followed by devastating news: Bond's husband, Clifford, was the baby's father.

Rage came next.

Carol Bond, a trained microbiologist, set out to poison Myrlinda Haynes over several months with a rare and potentially lethal blend of toxic chemicals. But Haynes, who received only a minor injury, was unable to persuade local law enforcement officials to act on her suspicions. So she called in the feds.

The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia went after Bond with a "sledgehammer," according to her lawyer, former Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement: Prosecutors sent Bond to prison under the anti-terrorist statutes meant to enforce an international chemical-weapons treaty.

So more is at stake at the Supreme Court than simply a woman scorned and inventive lawyers. Bond says the federal government had no right to indict her, and she bases her claim on the 10th Amendment, the tea party favorite that specifies the limits of federal power.

As a result, Bond has drawn support from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, the libertarian Cato Institute, gun owners and the attorneys general from six states, who not so coincidentally are among those suing the federal government over President Obama's health-care act.

The issue for the justices is whether an individual has the right to sue on the claim that the federal government has trespassed in areas reserved for the states - a subject of considerable interest to those who want to challenge the actions of Congress.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit said individuals don't have such a right on their own, without the involvement of a state.

At oral arguments Tuesday, the justices seemed inclined to say that a criminal defendant such as Bond should at least get the chance to argue the statute is unconstitutional.

But they seemed divided on whether they should give lower courts guidance on how Bond could win or how to decide whether the law is too broad.

Clement said before the arguments that even if the court does not rule broadly on the 10th Amendment, it should at least give Bond the chance to argue that her vengeful actions should never have been prosecuted under the auspices of a treaty with a daunting title - the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

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