Infuriated that her husband had sexual relations with her best friend, Carol Anne Bond smeared toxic chemicals she obtained at work and over the internet on her rival’s home and car. The chemicals were plainly visible, turning orange on contact with metal, and the object of her anger suffered, in all, only a minor burn to her thumb. Unfortunately for Bond, she also put the chemical on a mailbox which led to federal charges under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998. Fortunately for the Constitution the Supreme Court decided that the prosecution may have been a little over-zealous.
“The use of something as a ‘weapon’ typically connotes an instrument of . . . combat,” said Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion. “But no speaker in natural parlance would describe Bond’s feud-driven act of spreading irritating chemicals on Haynes’s door knob and mailbox as ‘combat’.” . . . “Nor do the other circumstances of Bond’s offense – an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy, meant to cause discomfort, that produced nothing more than a minor thumb burn – suggest that a chemical weapon was deployed in Norristown, Pennsylvania.”
Roberts also points out that unlike John Singer Sargent’s 20 by 8 foot painting of blinded mustard-gassed soldiers on a WWI battlefield, “There are no life-sized paintings of Bond’s rival washing her thumb.”
The case is Bond v. United States
In an opinion that came as little surprise to anyone the Supreme Court today in McCutcheon v. FEC did away with aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions. Although the cap remains on individual contributions to a candidate, wealthy contributors are now free to give to as many candidates or political organizations as they please.
Dissenting, Justice Breyer responded to Chief Justice Roberts’ assertion that the possibility of circumventing the remaining base contribution limits are purely hypothetical and remote. “We react to (that claim) rather like Oscar Wilde reacted to Dickens’ depiction of the death of Little Nell. ‘One would have to have a heart of stone,’ said Wilde, ‘to read it without laughing.'”
Frigid temperatures this morning means that, no, I didn’t sketch that Carolina wren al fresco outside the Supreme Court. A friend took a picture of it yesterday in Ellicott City which I stole for this composition. So, sue me.
Do police officers who fire shots at a vehicle during a high-speed chase violate the Fourth Amendment by using “unreasonable” force? Most of the Justices seemed not to think so, as long as the chase itself poses a danger.
Chief Justice Roberts: “is there any situation in which it would violate clearly established constitutional law for the police to use lethal force?”
Michael Mosley: “I hate to use television as an example, but perhaps the way the white Ford Bronco fled in the early 90’s that everybody saw on TV.”
The lawyer arguing for the daughter of the driver slain in the volley of shots fired by the police was peppered with questions from the bench, often incredulous or sarcastic.
Justice Scalia: “Okay, . . . You think it is clearly established law that you cannot shoot to kill a driver whose car is moving? Is that it?”
Gary K. Smith: “If . . . “
Scalia: “Is that the principle you say is clearly established?”
Smith: “If doing so . . . “
Scalia: “My goodness, they do it all the time. You watch the movies . . . it happens all the time. Are these movies unrealistic? You cannot shoot to kill somebody in a moving car?”
Smith: “In a . . . “
Scalia: “And that is not just your view. It is, you say, clearly established law?”
The case is Plumhoff v. Rickard
On the last day of the its term the Supreme Court today handed twin victories to the cause of marriage equality.
If there was an empty seat in the courtroom I couldn’t see it.
Justice Kennedy had the first opinion, U.S. v Windsor, in which the Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.And of course Justice Scalia read a lenghty dissent.
The second victory for same-sex marriage was by default in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts where the Court found that the petitioners in support of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing, thereby allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.
A 5-4 divided Court today struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively putting the burden on victims of voter descrimination to seek relief. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a majority that included Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito.In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act”.
Lyle Denniston’s take on the opinion is here.