Archive for the 'Standing' Category

Cert. Petition in Right to Carry Case

Posted by on Apr 22 2011 | Constitutional Law, guns, McDonald v. City of Chicago, Standing, supreme court

(David Kopel)

Filed earlier this week by Stephen Halbrook, in the case of Williams v. Maryland. In short, Maryland bans all handgun transportation or carry without a permit, and has a permitting process which formally declares that it will deny permits to almost everyone. As the petition explains, “the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Handgun Permit Review Board, and the Maryland courts have consistently interpreted these provisions [state regulations] to require the applicant to document, typically with police reports, that he or she has been the victim of assaults, threats, or robberies, except for applications involving certain occupations.”

Williams was peaceably transporting his handgun from his girlfriend’s home to his own home. He has been convicted, and sentenced to a year in prison. The state’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, rejected Williams’ Second Amendment challenge, because, supposedly, the Heller and McDonald affirmations of a general right to carry handguns (except in “sensitive places”) is mere dicta which the Maryland court will not follow unless a future U.S. Supreme Court cases formally announces “we meant what we already said.”

As Halbrook points out, “When the Framers intended that a provision of the Bill of Rights related to a house, they said so. [3d and 4th amendments.] They did not recognize a limited right to keep and bear arms only in one’s house. Despite this plain textual reference prohibiting infringement on the right to ‘bear arms,’ the Maryland court argued that the right need not be recognized at all because this Court has not decided cases directly on point. ‘But general statements of the law are not inherently incapable of giving fair and clear warning .. . .’ United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 271 (1997).2 [note 2:] ‘The easiest cases don’t even arise. There has never been . . . a section 1983 case accusing welfare officials of selling foster children into slavery; it does not follow that if such a case arose, the officials would be immune from damages [or criminal]
liability.’ Id.”

Further, Heller’s right to carry language is not dicta, according to McDonald: “our central holding in Heller: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.” As Halbrook points out, this inescapably “implies a right to bear arms outside the home (even if not quite as ‘notably’ as in the home).”

Williams had not applied for a permit, which would have been futile in light of Maryland’s established policy of permit denials. The Maryland Court of Appeals held the Williams therefore lacked standing to challenge the statute. Halbrook responds:

This is completely unfounded given Petitioner’s criminal conviction. Under this Court’s precedents, it is not a requirement for standing to challenge an allegedly unconstitutional permit requirement that one must apply for the permit and be denied. A long line of cases have invalidated permit requirements to exercise First Amendment rights in which the defendants who were convicted did not apply for permits. One of the more recent cases is Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 156 (2002) (invalidating permit requirement even though “Petitioners did not apply fora permit.”).

even if there were some general requirement for Petitioner to submit an application in order to challenge the permit statute, that requirement would be eliminated here under the doctrine of futility. This court has made it clear in various contexts that litigants are not required to perform a futile act. See,
e.g., Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606, 625–26 (2001) (where limitations imposed by wetland regulations were clear, and there was no indication
that kind of use sought by landowner would have been allowed, court did not require submission of “futile applications” with other agencies);

 Eugene Volokh’s analysis of the Maryland ruling is here.


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Kopel comment on states’ victory on health control lawsuit.

Posted by on Oct 14 2010 | Commerce Clause, congress, Constitutional Law, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Spending Clause, Standing, Taxes, Taxing and Spending Clause, Tenth Amendment

(David Kopel)

My comment on today’s decision, granting the motion to dismiss on some counts, and while allowing other counts to proceed. Like Randy’s comment, my comment is posted on the blog of the site Health Care Lawsuits, which is hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum.

The court entirely rejected the administration’s claim that the penalty for disobeying the mandate is justified under the federal tax power. As the court noted, Congress went out of its way to specify that the penalty is not a tax. Second, the court ruled that it is proper for the plaintiffs to be heard in their challenge to the mandate, which goes into effect in 2014. The court cited extensive precedent showing that when a future harm is certain, courts can act in the present to protect citizens from that harm. The court rejected the argument that the various employer mandates violate the constitutional sovereignty of states; as the court noted, the law simply treats states like other large employers, and so making states provide the same health benefits as other large employers must provide is no different from making states pay the same minimum wage as all other employers.

While federal spending programs may set conditions on grants to states, Supreme Court precedent states that the grants must not be coercive. Here, the court agreed that the states had raised a plausible legal argument which should be allowed to go forward:  the health control presents states with the unacceptable choice of massively increasing their own Medicaid spending on millions of more people, or of losing all funding for the traditional Medicaid program. Finally, the court agreed that the challenge to the individual mandate could go forward, because the mandate was “unprecedented.” Never before has Congress attempted to use its power of regulating interstate commerce to force people to buy a particular product. Because there is no judicial precedent in support of such a mandate, the plaintiffs had raised a plausible constitutional challenge which should be allowed to go forward.

The court’s ruling is not a final decision on the constitutional merits, but it is a solid, meticulously researched, and carefully-reasoned decision declaring that the opponents of the health control law have raised legitimate constitutional objections.


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Cert. Grant in 10th Amendment Case

Posted by on Oct 12 2010 | Standing, Tenth Amendment

(David Kopel)

Granted this morning, Bond v. United States. Question presented: “Whether a criminal defendant convicted under a federal statute has standing to challenge her conviction on grounds that, as applied to her, the statute is beyond the federal government’s enumerated powers and inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment.” The circuits are split, and defendant was convicted in the 3d Circuit, which sua sponte used standing as the reason to refuse to consider her the defendant’s constitutional argument.

The underlying issue is whether, pursuant to the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by the Senate in 1997, Congress can criminalize any non-peacefu use of a toxic substance. Defendant argues that her particular use (to try to injure her husband’s mistress) was not within the reach of any enumerated congressional power.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement filed the successful petition for a writ of certiorari.

A key issue in the case is this line from Tennessee Electric Power Corp. v. TVA (1939): that legal persons, “absent the states or their officers, have no standing in this suit to raise any question under the amendment.” Some lower courts have treated this as dicta but others have not. Whether or not it’s dicta, the Supreme Court can repudiate or narrow it, and in my view, the Court should. If an individual is going to spend six years in federal prison, that individual should certainly be considered to have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law under which she is being imprisoned.


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