Lost in Translation: The Accidental Origins of Bond v. United States
9 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2014 Last revised: 21 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 27, 2014
Bond v. United States, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided last year, weighed the constitutionally of using the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its implementing act to prosecute U.S. citizens for local assaults. Prior to the decision, both parties and numerous amici believed that the case could transform key parts of federalism doctrine and/or U.S. foreign relations. This essay gives a retrospective on Bond and the CWC’s U.S. implementation. It shows that the federalism issues central to Bond were overlooked during the CWC’s ratification and implementation, and that Congress and the State Department never envisioned Bond-like uses of the CWC Implementation Act. It offers a theory for this oversight, and it attempts to explain why international law like the CWC sometimes translates poorly into domestic law. Finally, it shows how cases like Bond showcase the unintended effects of those mistranslations.
Keywords: federalism, Congress, Constitution, treaties, chemical weapons convention, Supreme Court
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