Supreme Court hears arguments on enumerated powers, speedy trial deadlines

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] in Bond v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on whether a criminal defendant may challenge the constitutionality of a federal criminal statute under the Tenth Amendment [text]. Carol Anne Bond was charged with burning her husband's mistress using poisonous chemicals and was indicted under a federal law [18 USC § 229(a) text] created to stop the distribution and use of chemical weapons under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention [UN backgrounder]. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that Bond lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the statute on the basis of the Tenth Amendment because she was an individual acting on her own and not with a state. Counsel for the government said that it would be unfair if Bond raised a Tenth Amendment argument that the federal government overstepped its power and violated a state's ability to make its own law, because the state would not be a party to the case and unable to represent its own interests. Counsel for Bond argued that she has standing to challenge the federal law because the "liberty interest she seeks to vindicate is her own, not some third party's," such as the state's.

In United States v. Tinklenberg [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether time taken to process a pretrial motion is excluded from the maximum 70-day deadline allowed under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 [18 USC § 3161(h)(1)(D) text], or whether the time is excluded only if the pretrial motion postpones, or is expected to postpone, the trial. Jason Louis Tinklenberg was convicted of making methamphetamine and appealed his conviction arguing that his trial started after the deadline required by federal statute. The US Court of the Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Tinklenberg's indictment should have been dismissed because the postponed date of the trial violated the Speedy Trial Act. Counsel for the government argued that the court should uphold precedent, saying that "[f]or more than 30 years, the courts of appeals had uniformly held that the exclusion applies automatically upon the filing of any motion, regardless of its effect on the trial schedule." Counsel for Tinklenberg argued that the court should use the "ordinary meaning" of the language in the statute, finding that the trial was delayed unlawfully.

 

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