It has been ten years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down any federal law for unconstitutionally intruding into State authority. In 1995, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law prohibiting guns near schools. Then, in the year 2000, the Court struck down one provision of the Violence Against Women Act because that issue is traditionally handled by State law, not federal law.
The Tenth Amendment expressly reserves to the states and the people powers not granted to the federal government. How far Congress can go in intruding into local matters has been a hotly contested issue ever since. This year, lawsuits have been filed against ObamaCare because the federal government is grabbing power away from the states and individuals with respect to health insurance and medical care.
Another rather unusual dispute now before the Supreme Court raises some of the same issues. In this case, a wife, Mrs. Carol Bond, used dangerous chemicals to try to harm her husband’s girl friend, who suffered a minor burn as a result. The government prosecuted the wife under a foreign treaty governing chemicals, and she got a sentence of six years in jail. The Supreme Court is now tackling the issue of whether the federal government has the power to prosecute this case since domestic disputes are supposed to be handled by states rather than federal law. The wife is arguing that this prosecution violates her rights under the Tenth Amendment. If she prevails, then other citizens can challenge other federal laws by asserting their rights under the Tenth Amendment.
The federal law applied against Mrs. Bond is based on an arms-control treaty never intended to justify prosecution for the misuse of chemicals in a domestic dispute. Since the Supreme Court took this case, it creates the possibility of strengthening the limits on federal power.
Listen to the radio commentary here: