NYSRPA Starts The Day At SCOTUS

The oral argument in the NY State Rifle and Pistol Association versus City of New York is the top of the calendar today for the Supreme Court. This marks the first Second Amendment case to reach this stage since 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago.

The oral arguments are being recorded. The Supreme Court also will make transcripts available. Both will be available on Friday after the Court’s regular conference.

For a more contemporaneous report on the proceedings without the mainstream media slant, Tom Gresham of Gun Talk was given media credentials to cover the case and will be posting on Twitter. His Twitter feed is found here. Alternatively, his Twitter handle is @guntalk. He also will be doing a Facebook livestream before and after the session. You can find it here.

All I can say regarding the case is to keep your fingers crossed. The US government has taken the position that the case is not moot. Paul Clement who will be arguing on behalf of the NYSRPA agrees in his response.

Remington Denied Cert (Updated)

The US Supreme Court has denied a writ of certiorari to Remington in their appeal of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling. That ruling allowed the lawsuit by some of the families of the Newtown murders against Remington to go forward. The Connecticut Supreme Court had said Remington would not be protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

The denial was in the Order List released this morning.

As I mentioned earlier, the anti-PLCAA forces had brought out the big legal guns with Obama’s former Solicitor General. His argument must have swayed enough justices that they voted against taking the case.

You can read more about the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling in the case here.

This means that the lawsuit against Remington will go to trial in Connecticut Superior Court and that the plaintiffs can go on a fishing expedition through Remington’s records.

To be blunt, this denial of cert sucks. It turns on its head the supremacy of Federal law and makes a mockery of a law passed by Congress to prevent exactly what the plaintiffs are seeking to do.

UPDATE: Dave Hardy, 2A scholar and attorney, gives his take on the SCOTUS denial of cert in the case. He still thinks the plaintiffs have a long way to go before they win.

Big point: the trial court dismissed the suit for “failure to state a claim.” This is the first stage at which a suit can be reviewed. Dismissal is only proper if it is based on the pleading, bare written allegations. The CT Supremes said only that it couldn’t be, at this stage. Plaintiff still have to prove their allegations (after discovery, they can be challenged by a motion for summary judgement, and if that’s denied, fought at trial). The CT Supremes even allowed that plaintiff may have to surmount “herculean” barriers to win.

I’ll defer to Dave given his long experience as an attorney.

#ReleaseTheList

The ultra-progressive group Demand Justice released a list of 32 potential nominees for the Supreme Court. They want Democrat presidential candidates to adopt this list or to release one of their own. This is what then-candidate Donald J. Trump did in 2016 to good effect.

I agree. Release the list! If the list(s) adopted by any of the Democrat candidates is anything like the Demand Justice list, it will be full of radicals, with little judicial experience, chosen to appease constituent groups.

Professor Josh Blackman provides a convenient grouping on The Volokh Conspiracy.

Academics: Michelle Alexander (Union Theological Seminary),  James Forman, Jr. (Yale), Pamela Karlan (Stanford), M. Elizabeth Magill (Virginia), Melissa Murray (NYU), Bryan Stevenson (NYU), Zephyr Teachout (Fordham), Timothy Wu (Columbia),


Progressive Litigators: Brigitte Amiri (ACLU), Nicole Berner (GC SEIU), Deepak Gupta (Gupta Wessler), Dale Ho (ACLU), Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP LDF), Shannon Minter (National Center for Lesbian Rights), Nina Perales (MALDEF), Thomas A. Saenz (MALDEF), Cecillia Wang (ACLU),


Current/Former Government Officers: Xavier Becerra (California AG), Sharon Block (one of the three NLRB appointments at issue in Noel Canning), Vanita Gupta (Former Obama DOJ), Lawrence Krasner (Philadelphia DA), Catharine Lhamon (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights), Katie Porter (House of Representatives), Jenny Yang (Former EEOC Chair)


Federal Judges: Richard F. Boulware (D. Nev.), Jane Kelly (8th Circuit), Cornelia Pillard (D.C. Circuit), Carlton Reeves (S.D. Miss.)


State Judges: Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar (California Supreme Court), Anita Earls (North Carolina Supreme Court), Leondra Kruger (California Supreme Court), Goodwin Liu (California Supreme Court)

Let’s look at the sitting judges first. All of the Federal judges were appointed by President Barack Obama. They have between five and nine years of experience and only one of them is on a Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Update On NYSRPA V. City Of New York

The Supreme Court released new orders relating to oral arguments in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York.

The motion of the Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument is granted. The motion of Neal Goldfarb for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument is denied.

The Supreme Court usually approves the request of the Solicitor General to participate in oral arguments as amicus curiae and will grant his or her request for divided argument.

As to Mr. Goldfarb, he is the only one of those submitting amicus briefs who requested to participate in the oral argument. From what I can tell, he is something of a gadfly who wants to apply linguistics to the legal interpretation. His brief insists that the Court was wrong in its interpretation of language in DC v. Heller.

NYSRPA v City Of New York Lives On (Updated)

The Supreme Court opened its October term today and released a number of orders. Included in this was an order denying New York City’s suggestion of mootness in NYSRPA v. City of New York

18-280
NY STATE RIFLE & PISTOL, ET AL. V. NEW YORK, NY, ET AL.


The Respondents’ Suggestion of Mootness is denied. The question of mootness will be subject to further consideration at
oral argument, and the parties should be prepared to discuss it.

This is good news for those of us wanting the case to be decided.

UPDATE

I asked the Law Department of the City of New York if they had any comment on the denial of the Suggestion of Mootness. Here is what I received from their press secretary.

We look forward to addressing the issues at the December oral argument.

Nick Paolucci
Press Secretary

I guess that is as close to saying “No Comment” as you can get without actually saying it.

How Not To Win Friends And Influence Justices

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) considers himself worthy of authoring an amicus brief for a case before the Supreme Court. He should think again. Despite a long legal career before being elected to the Senate which culminated with him serving as both the Attorney General of Rhode Island for one term and before that as the Clinton-appointed US Attorney for Rhode Island, his brief in NY State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York is a polemic and not an argument.

Moreover, as the son and grandson of diplomats, you would have thought somewhere along the line it would have rubbed off on him how to be diplomatic towards those that matter. Daddy served as deputy ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam followed up as the ambassador to Laos and then Thailand. Granddad was ambassador to Guatemala and Colombia and served earlier on the commission that wrote the Treaty of Versailles.

Whitehouse was joined in this polemic, I mean amicus brief, by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who are all lawyers by training. They begin the brief arguing that the NYSRPA, the petitioners, are asking the Court to be their allies in ” a “project”
to expand the Second Amendment and thwart gun-safety (sic) regulations.” They continue that it is no wonder polls show the Supreme Court is “motivated mainly by politics.” It goes downhill from here.

They then argue that it was the National Rifle Association, the Federalist Society, and other conservative groups fought to make sure that Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would be on the Court to “break the tie” in favor of the Second Amendment. It goes on to say about the Federalist Society:

The Society counts over eighty-six percent of
Trump administration nominees to the circuit courts
of appeal and to this Court as active members. It is
not yet clear who the powerful funders are behind
Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society judicial
selection effort, nor what took place as the Federalist
Society was “insourced” into the Trump
administration’s judicial selection process.5 But
massive political spending and secrecy are rarely a
salubrious combination.

In other words, these fine senators are pissed off that President Trump has nominated active members of an organization dedicated to an interpretation of the Constitution that preserves the original meaning. They would much prefer those of the Living Constitution stripe.

This brief then goes on to attack the amicus briefs in favor of the NY State Rifle and Pistol Association implying that they are stooges of the NRA. Eight of the amici are affiliated with the NRA. However, most of those are from only one amicus brief – that of the National Sheriffs Association. Then, heaven forbid, a number of amici are 503(c)(4) social welfare organization who are not required to disclose their donors. As the secretary of the Maryland Democratic Party might note, this makes them harder to dox. Of course much of this is ludicrous. Accusing groups like the Pink Pistols and GOA of being stooges of the NRA is laughable.

Whitehouse ends Section I of the brief with this.

Out in the real world, Americans are murdered
each day with firearms in classrooms or movie
theaters or churches or city streets, and a generation
of preschoolers is being trained in active-shooter
survival drills. In the cloistered confines of this
Court, and notwithstanding the public imperatives of
these massacres, the NRA and its allies brashly
presume, in word and deed, that they have a friendly
audience for their “project.”

You might think Whitehouse might now try to curry favor with the justices in Section II and you’d be wrong. After a few paragraphs saying how the Court shouldn’t be answering moot questions and legislating from the bench, he then accuses the Court’s majority of being the tools of big business, the GOP, and fat cats.

Recent patterns raise legitimate questions about
whether these limits remain. From October Term
2005 through October Term 2017, this Court issued
78 5-4 (or 5-3) opinions in which justices appointed by
Republican presidents provided all five votes in the
majority. In 73 of these 5-4 decisions, the cases
concerned interests important to the big funders,
corporate influencers, and political base of the
Republican Party. And in each of these 73 cases,
those partisan interests prevailed.

Then he accuses the petitioners of engaging in strategic “faux litigation”. What he is speaking of is strategic civil rights litigation with carefully chosen plaintiffs and with the purpose of building precedent. The interesting historical aspect of this is that the model for this strategic litigation was none other than the NAACP Legal Defense Fund run at the time by future Justice Thurgood Marshall.

For example, we have seen flocks of
“freedom-based public interest law” organizations
that exist only to change public policy through
litigation, and which often do not disclose their
funders. We have seen behavioral signals, like
litigants who rush to lose cases in lower courts “as
quickly as practicable and without argument, so that
[they] can expeditiously take their claims to the
Supreme Court” (ordinarily, in litigation, litigants
seek to win).
Almost invariably, and as we have seen in this case, such plaintiffs are accompanied by
throngs of professional amici, whose common funding
sources and connections to the organizations behind
the supposed party-in-interest are obscured by
ineffective disclosure rules.

Instead of being flattered, Whitehouse seems to say how dare these dirty, low down conservatives imitate the tactics and strategies of the Left!

He then ends the brief with a threat.

The Supreme Court is not well. And the people
know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the
public demands it be “restructured in order to reduce
the influence of politics.” Particularly on the urgent
issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to
heal.

Whitehouse is no FDR but he thinks his threat of packing the Court is going to sway it. His demeaning attitude should irritate even the most ardent liberals on the Court. Whether this case is ultimately dismissed as moot or not, there will be more cases that have even more impact for Second Amendment rights that are now or soon will be in the pipeline.

UPDATE: I’m not the only one who found Whitehouse’s brief to be a polemic and not a real argument. Prof. William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection covered it as well. Note the comments. I agree with the person who said ” The Court should strike the brief without a right to refile an amended brief, and impose sanctions.”

It Was A Big Day For Amicus Briefs

Monday and Tuesday were big days for amicus briefs in NY State Rifle & Pistol Association et al. v. City of New York. By my count, there were 25 briefs submitted pro and con but mostly in favor of NYSRPA. Obviously, when you have 25 briefs that is a lot of reading. I haven’t even begun to start.

In Favor of New York City

In Favor of Neither Petititioner

In Favor of NY State Rifle and Pistol Association

The counsels of record for the petititioners (NYSRPA) read like a who’s who of Second Amendment attorneys. You have Alan Gura, Stephen Halbrook, Dave Kopel, Don Kilmer, Stephen Stamboulieh, David Jensen, Dan Schmutter, Dave Hardy, and the list goes on. If you have been following Second Amendment law for the last 10-15 years you would have come across them one way or another.

SCOTUS To New York City – Motion Denied

The City of New York had filed a motion to hold the briefing schedule in NY State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York in abeyance. Their argument was that since the NYPD were proposing to modify regulations on transport for those with premises permits that the briefing schedule should be suspended. In other words, we say we are going to change the regulations in question which might moot the case so don’t make us go to all the work necessary to respond to the plaintiffs.

In the orders issued by the Supreme Court today, their motion was denied.

18-280       NY STATE RIFLE & PISTOL, ET AL. V. NEW YORK, NY, ET AL.


The motion of respondents to hold the briefing schedule in
abeyance is denied.

Paul Clement is the attorney of record for the NY State Rifle & Pistol Association and opposed this motion to hold briefing in abeyance. He said that “a stay is neither necessary nor appropriate” and then went to note the case was over six years old.

NYC Blinks. Unfortunately

When the Supreme Court surprised us by granting certiorari in NY State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York et al, those of us in the pro-rights community rejoiced. This would be the first major Second Amendment case involving firearms accepted for cert since McDonald v. Chicago. A number of states as well as a number of gun rights organizations filed amicus briefs urging the Court to accept the case. As issue in the case was a New York City law that forbid those with handgun licenses from traveling outside the city limits with their handguns. They were only allowed to transport their handgun to one of seven licensed ranges within the city.

It was felt that this case might be used to establish both the right to carry outside the home and to set the standard that should be used in Second Amendment cases. David Kopel said the case offered the opportunity to “to begin reining in lower court nullification of the Supreme Court’s precedents in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.” Brian Doherty writing in Reason noted that the Second Circuit “believed that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms pretty much only counts in the home, and thus these transport laws do not harm its core purpose.” He went on to say the many American believe their right to self defense does not end when they step out the door of their home.

At the end of March I noted an op-ed by Ladd Everitt, Director of George Takai’s gun control organization One Pulse for America, which urged the City of New York and the NYPD to change the law forbidding transport. I postulated that the gun control lobby was getting a bit nervous by this case and wanted the city to do what it took to moot the case. While I don’t think Everitt’s op-ed would case the City of New York to reevaluate its law, I’m sure some heavy hitters among the gun prohibitionists getting on-board this bandwagon would.

Michael Bloomberg’s wholly funded mouthpiece, The Trace, ran a story on Monday on the case and by Friday the City of New York had filed a motion with the Supreme Court advising them that the NYPD was engaging in a proposed rulemaking that would moot the case.

From the city’s attorney:

The Court granted the petition for a
writ of certiorari in this case on January 22, 2019, and petitioners’ merits brief is
currently due on May 7, 2019.



I write to advise the Court of a proposed rulemaking. If adopted in
accordance with established procedures, the proposed rule would render this case
moot before the parties complete the merits briefing in this case. For this reason, I
also write to request that the Court stay the current briefing schedule pending final
action on the proposed rule.

The proposed rule would allow residents with a premises permit for their handgun to transport them, unloaded, in a locked container, with the ammo in a separate container to:

  • Another premises of the licensee where the licensee is authorized to
    have and possess a handgun;
  • A small-arms range/shooting club authorized by law to operate as
    such, whether located within or outside New York City; and
  • A shooting competition at which the licensee may possess the handgun
    consistent with the law applicable at the place of the competition.

The NRA-ILA released a statement calling the move, in essence, a sham.

“The City of New York clearly knows that its current restrictions on the carrying and transportation of lawfully owned firearms are unconstitutional and will fail under any standard of constitutional review, as the NRA has been saying for years. Today, it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and allow the City to slow walk a narrow expansion of its current policy through a lengthy bureaucratic process — the result of which, even if adopted, would still unduly infringe upon the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. That is not how things work in the Supreme Court; the Court does not put its review on hold while the government embarks on a journey that at best might fix only a limited part of the constitutional defect. This is nothing more than a naked attempt by New York City to resist Supreme Court review of policies that even New York must recognize as inconsistent with the holdings in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The City of New York did not respect its citizens’ Second Amendment rights before the Supreme Court granted review in this case and it will not respect them going forward. We are confident that the Court will reject New York’s desperate attempt to avoid review of its blatantly unconstitutional laws.”

 I’m not sure the NRA is correct in being confident that the Supreme Court will reject New York City’s request to hold off on briefing the case. Given the chance to avoid the issue, I think the Supreme Court as led by Chief Justice Roberts may do just that. They have had many other opportunities to take another Second Amendment case and have punted.

Remington Plans To Appeal Connecticut Supreme Court Ruling To SCOTUS

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on March 14th that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act did not protect Remington and its fellow defendants in a case brought by families of some of the Newtown murder victims. The split decision allowed the case to go back to the trial court level for adjudication. Given the strong dissent in the case and the way the majority made up a rationale out of whole cloth to support their decision, it was only a matter of time before an appeal was filed with the United States Supreme Court.

Remington filed a motion with the Connecticut Supreme Court yesterday requesting a stay in the decision as they plan to appeal to the SCOTUS.

Remington is filing a Petition for Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court in
accordance with the applicable Rules of the United States Supreme Court. The basis
for jurisdiction in the Supreme Court is this Court’s decision on an important federal
question that conflicts with a decision of a United States court of appeals. U.S. Sup. Ct.
R. 10. Specifically, Remington will ask the United States Supreme Court to consider
and decide whether CUTPA is the type of statute Congress intended to serve as a “predicate statute” under § 7903(5)(A)(iii) of the PLCAA, a violation of which may
deprive firearm manufacturers and sellers threshold immunity against being sued. See
15 U.S.C. § 7902(a) (“A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal
or State court.”). As this Court recognized, “courts that have construed the predicate
exception are divided” on whether Congress intended for violation of statutes, like
CUTPA, to serve as an exception to PLCAA immunity. Soto, 331 Conn. at 136.

The motion goes on to give a legal rationale for the issuance of a stay.

The Court should stay proceedings pending the United States Supreme Court’s
decision to either deny Remington’s Petition for Certiorari or its decision on the merits of
the case. Practice Book § 71-7 provides:

When a case has gone to judgment in the state Supreme Court and
a party to the action wishes to obtain a stay of execution pending a
decision in the case by the United States Supreme Court, that party
shall, within twenty days of the judgment, file a motion for stay with
the appellate clerk directed to the state Supreme Court. The filing of
the motion shall operate as a stay pending the state Supreme
Court’s decision thereon.

If proceedings are not stayed and Remington is required to undergo the costly
and time-consuming burdens of litigation, including further discovery, motion practice
and possibly trial, it will irreparably lose the intended benefit of threshold PLCAA
immunity from suit. The United States Supreme Court has consistently recognized that
“[u]ntil … threshold immunity is resolved, discovery should not be allowed.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).

According to the Associated Press, Remington has until June to file the actual petition for a writ of certiorari. The same article quotes the attorney for the plaintiffs as saying, “is a matter of law for the state of Connecticut.” Given that the case revolved around the supremacy of Federal law in what is arguably a Federal matter, this is a case that should be heard by the SCOTUS. That is, if they want to preserve the intent of Congress and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.