As regular readers know, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Bond v. United States in January. The case raises the question of whether a treaty can increase the legislative power of Congress. In 1920, in Missouri v. Holland, the Supreme Court seemed to say yes. In 2005, in the Harvard Law Review, I said no. Several of us, including guest blogger Rick Pildes, debated the question at length earlier this year (my final post includes links to all the others). Now, the Court is poised to decide the question.
Yesterday, Paul Clement filed his brief on behalf of Ms. Bond. It is an excellent piece of work. Here is a taste:
[T]he government is left to argue that, in our constitutional system, a valid non-self-executing treaty grants Congress a plenary power to regulate all conduct that bears a rational relationship to the treaty …. [T]hat contention is fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and this Court’s precedents. Missouri v. Holland does not establish that proposition, but if it did, it could not be reconciled with more recent decisions that respect our basic constitutional structure. Neither any clause of the Constitution alone nor all of them in combination grants Congress that kind of police power. And the last place such plenary power lies inchoate, waiting to be unleashed by a ratified treaty, is the Necessary and Proper Clause. An unchecked power to implement treaties would amount to exactly the sort of “great substantive and independent power” that the Necessary and Proper Clause cannot supply. McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 411 (1819); see also NFIB, 132 S. Ct. at 2591–92 (Roberts, C.J.).
I will be posting the other briefs (including mine, for Cato et al.) as they are filed.