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Who? What? Where? When? and Why?

As TRPChicago says, "Each case is a story," a sketch of a major moment in someone's life. Some real person, or persons, has an important issue that they need the court to sort out.

As most of you know, I am not a lawyer, but I want to understand gun law. I like to be informed, and to make up my own mind, rather than rely on digested news. One way that I am learning which laws and which legal principles are in play is to read some of the actual cases percolating up to the Supreme Court. Some of the disputes embody all the drama and tension found in good fiction and mystery writing.

When I try to wrap my mind around the kernel of a gun lawsuit it helps to begin with a  basic story outline, starting with the first W question, Who? In this diary I'll introduce the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the NYSAFE Act. I'll hold your hand as we begin to install the important features of the story into our collective "working memory."

The NY SAFE Act was discussed on Daily Kos last winter, here and here, and introduced in last week's Open Thread. This decision is the first constitutional review of the new gun law. Written by federal Judge WILLIAM M. SKRETNY in the Western District of New York, the order was filed on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, in Buffalo, New York. The NYTimes has a review of the decision.

Since I plan to write more about the NYSAFE Act, let's consider this diary the beginning of a series, Lilith's Litigation Tutorial - The NYSAFE Act (part I).

This is an Open Thread.


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We publish Open Threads on Sundays and Wednesdays

The Daily Kos Firearms Law and Policy group studies actions for reducing firearm deaths and injuries in a manner that is consistent with the current Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment. We also cover the many positive aspects of gun ownership, including hunting, shooting sports, and self-defense.

To see our list of original and republished diaries, go to the Firearms Law and Policy diary list. Click on the ♥ or the word "Follow" next to our group name to add our posts to your stream, and use the link next to the heart to send a message to the group if you have a question or would like to join.

*An earlier diary introduced Daily Kos to this case on December 31st.

Who's Who - Challenging the NY SAFE Act




In this segment of this series we'll look at who brought the suit to challenge the law. In later diaries we'll look at where they filed it, and who must answer the claims to defend the law. No matter where you stand on the spectrum of gun rights/gun regulations, organizations in your state that challenge gun laws are organizations worth knowing something about.

On the first page of the decision we see that the suit was filed in federal court, in the Western District of New York. The plaintiffs include four shooting sports clubs, four companies that make or sell guns, and three individuals. The defendants are the NY state governor (Cuomo), the NY Attorney General (Schneiderman), the Superintendent of the NY State Police, District Attorney for Genesee County, and the Police Chief of Lancaster, NY.

I wonder why, in cases like this, it is necessary to name defendants at so many different levels? I have no idea. Attorneys? Anyone? Please help us in the comments to understand this elementary aspect of litigation.



Where the suit was filed:
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Who brought the suit: (the Plaintiffs)
NEW YORK STATE RIFLE AND PISTOL ASSOCIATION, INC.;
WESTCHESTER COUNTY FIREARMS OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.;
SPORTSMEN'S ASSOCIATION FOR FIREARMS EDUCATION, INC.;
NEW YORK STATE AMATEUR TRAPSHOOTING ASSOCIATION, INC.;
BEDELL CUSTOM;
BEIKIRCH AMMUNITION CORPORATION;
BLUELINE TACTICAL & POLICE SUPPLY, LLC;
BATAVIA MARINE & SPORTING SUPPLY;
WILLIAM NOJAY,
THOMAS GALVIN, and
ROGER HORVATH,
Who must respond to the claims: (the Defendents)
ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New York;
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General of the State of New York;
JOSEPH A. D'AMICO, Superintendent of the New York State Police;
LAWRENCE FRIEDMAN, District Attorney for Genesee County;
and GERALD J. GILL, Chief of Police for the Town of Lancaster, New York


The lead plaintiff in this case is an organization, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, NYSRPA.

It's always helpful to do a google search on the lead organizational plaintiff. They usually have a website where they will cheerfully explain their goals and why they are challenging this specific law. The plaintiff's will have links to Amicus Briefs in support of their claim. Amicus Briefs are documents filed by "friends of the Court" who will attempt to educate the judges about the evidence and suggest case law supporting their arguments. These documents will usually state openly whether they support the plaintiffs or the defendants, or neither.

About Us
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association is the state's largest and nation's oldest firearms advocacy organization. Since 1871, our organization has been dedicated to the preservation of Second Amendment rights, firearm safety, education and training, and the shooting sports. Our membership consists of individuals and clubs throughout the state. We are a not-for-profit 501(c)4 organization and the official NRA-affiliated State Association in New York.

The lead Plaintiff's webpage includes a timeline of the case, with links to various documents. I see they initially filed the suit last spring on March 21, 2013. That's an important anchor point to assemble a low resolution map of the story in my mind.

Here is a copy of the Court's decision - Western District of New York, December 31st.



"The Court ruled against us on guns, but dismissed 7 round limit."
NYSRPA, Lead Plaintiff






New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, NYSRPA

March 21, 2013: Initial filing.
[...]
May 14, 2013 Update: New York State Sheriff's Association files a Amicus Curiae in support of our lawsuit.

May 15, 2013 Update: We have filed both a Complaint and an Amended Complaint in the USDC for the Western District of New York. Our Amended Complaint claims that the SAFE Act is unconstitutional in that it violates the Second Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and is unconstitutionally vague.[...] To date we have spent $164,000 on the suit and have received an additional $80,000 from the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund.
[...]
June 13, 2013 Update: [...] To date we have spent $225,000 on the lawsuit.
[...]
December 26, 2013 Update: Judge William Skretny has decided oral arguments are unnecessary and he will make his decision based upon the briefs submitted by both parties.

December 31, 2013 Update: The Court ruled against us on guns, but dismissed 7 round limit.  Here is a copy of the decision.  A formal opinion of this decision will be posted here at a later date.

January 3, 2014: We will appeal the court decision. [A draft of the Appeal is linked in the NYSRPA timeline for the case

Skipping to the bottom of the NYSRPA timeline, I see that there were no oral arguments. That's interesting.
December 26, 2013 Update: Judge William Skretny has decided oral arguments are unnecessary and he will make his decision based upon the briefs submitted by both parties.
That simple fact impresses me.

It might mean the judge decided that the briefs were well-written and complete, so well-written that they contained all the information needed to fully analyze the claims. Otherwise, the judge would have scheduled oral arguments so he could ask questions of each side, to request additional evidence or to clarify something about the law. I don't know how often that happens, but I think the attorneys are smart, they did their homework and wrote clear briefs. Their claims and evidence were focused on the issues and appropriate for the District Court level.

Next, I see at the bottom that the judge issued his opinion on December 31, 2013 and four days later they had already drafted their appeal.

Let's discuss.



8:23 PM PT: (h/t) oldpotsmuggler - I edited the diary in the middle:

1. Added an extra link to the decision, (in addition to the link at the end of the plaintiff's timeline.

2. Edited the transition to the Plaintiff's timeline to emphasize that the summary words are quoting the Lead Plaintiff ver batim, "The Court ruled against us on guns, but dismissed 7 round limit."

Thu Jan 09, 2014 at  7:58 AM PT: (h/t) blackhand - Fixed the broken link in the timeline. A draft of the Appeal is found at the plaintiff's page that logs everything that happens in the case. If you want to keep track of the case, bookmark that page.

January 3, 2014: We will appeal the court decision. [A draft of the Appeal is linked in the NYSRPA timeline for the case.

Originally posted to Firearms Law and Policy on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:03 PM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

Poll

Why was the challenge to the NY SAFE Act filed in the Western District of New York?

0%0 votes
0%0 votes
14%2 votes
7%1 votes
28%4 votes
28%4 votes
21%3 votes

| 14 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:03:15 PM PST

  •  This looks like you're doing your own restatement (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, LilithGardener

    of the Docket Sheet. Interesting.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:20:37 PM PST

    •  You mean the timeline? (2+ / 0-)

      In the blockquote? Those are their words, with my deletions marked as [...].

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:26:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess that I'm not sure which source you're (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener, Glen The Plumber

        accessing. A lot of the electronic stuff, I have no experience with.

        And no one I know has ever found a real way to short cut the hard work. A simple rule of thumb, as I understand it, is that after you've read the entirety of every filing from both sides (unless you're already an expert in that field) you are finally entitled to express an opinon on what the two sides are arguing over. Not really on what the outcome should be, but at least on what the two (and often more, sometimes many more, than that) are saying.

        It's really, from there, that things can tend to get complicated.

        But trust me on this, people who tend to have easy answers for hard question are pretty much always clueless.

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:03:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The quoted material is from the Lead Plaintiff's (2+ / 0-)

          website which they were updating as the case proceeds.

          I updated the diary to, hopefully, make it clear that the quote in the title comes from the Lead Plaintiff's own public announcement of the decision. It's their words.

          Here is a copy of Court's decision - Western District of New York, December 31st.




          "The Court ruled against us on guns, but dismissed 7 round limit."
          NYSRPA, Lead Plaintiff



          The blockquote below that is my excerpt from the linked website.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:30:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Its called: taking the shotgun approach (4+ / 0-)

    (Uh, er pun discovered)

    its elementary in litigation to sue everybody involved. someone is going to be responsible and you want that entity to have deep pockets. Sue everybody, it only costs a little more

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:44:35 PM PST

  •  This is an Open Thread - feel free to post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber

    links, announcements, your projects, your other diaries, promote your other groups...

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:56:18 PM PST

  •  How's the weather where you are? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber

    And how are you coping?

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:56:56 PM PST

  •  The gun nuts got some idiot judge to (0+ / 0-)

    Demand that the City of Chicago allow gun sales.

    I would like to see this bad idea come up for a vote in Chicago.

    •  Chicago has some problems in City Hall (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber, blackhand

      Gun laws aren't the only issue that has brought forth some of the most boneheaded moves Dem politicians have made in recent years.

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:35:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •   (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

        by TRPChicago on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:13:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, well we never closed any toll lanes from... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        ... Indiana. (However good an idea that might be now and then.)

        But come to think of it, one night after dark about ten years ago, Mayor Daley did bulldoze Meigs Field, a one-runway airport on the edge of Lake Michigan and very convenient for small planes to land near downtown Chicago. Unlike someone else We Know, Mayor Daley was proud of his action, holding a news conference the next day to announce what he had ordered done and taking full credit for it!

        Now that's class!

        He did it, reportedly, with no notice to other governmental bodies like, say, the FAA. To have done it otherwise, he said, would have been too contentious!

        2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

        by TRPChicago on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:20:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, great... (0+ / 0-)

          The GOP has Christie imposing a "traffic study" on Fort Lee, intentionally effing up traffic for 4 days, and we had a Chicago Mayor bulldoze an airport, permanently.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:23:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  How did you do that - post a comment without (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          i saw an old tree today

          anything in the subject line?

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:24:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's ... magic! No, actually, DK hiccuped and... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LilithGardener

            ... swallowed my first comment - title and text, all but my Cheshire Cat grin! - so I re-did it. I may try to do that more often!

            Second chances in life are not all bad. But watch what you say about our Sainted Mayors!

            2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

            by TRPChicago on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:29:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'm totally guessing here, but ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Glen The Plumber, LilithGardener

    - Why so many defendants? Maybe because the plaintiffs ultimately want to ask for relief against each, possibly in a different way or not knowing who will have the ball they want to grab if they win, etc.
    - Why so many plaintiffs? Well, they show the diversity of interests at stake. And, some theories of the case may be better exemplified or highlighted by some plaintiffs and not others. For example, there were, as I recall, six original plaintiffs in Heller. Only one lasted through motions to dismiss, etc., but that one was the ideal one - a security guy who used a gun at work but couldn't bring it home, etc.
    - Why the Western District? Yes, it could be shopping for a court with more judges who might be sympathetic (most cases in most district courts are assigned blindly), or because the case will be heard fast, or because a key plaintiff lives there. It's probably not because one of the lawyers is there, because whoever the client and his/her/its chief lawyer is, they will want local counsel.  
    - A quick appeal is no surprise. Think of the Utah AG who reportedly blew asking in a timely fashion for the district court to stay its order in the recent marriage case. Plus, the plaintiffs - like most 2A gun case plaintiffs and their lawyers - want to get to the Supreme Court! And quickly.

    All this is conjecture, mind you. I'm just saying' ...

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:31:02 PM PST

    •  Thx, TRPChicago, I was impressed by this part (0+ / 0-)

      A fast docket? Hadn't thought of that possibility.

      December 26, 2013 Update: Judge William Skretny has decided oral arguments are unnecessary and he will make his decision based upon the briefs submitted by both parties.
      Are most District Court decisions issued by a single judge?

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:47:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup. In the Federal system, the District Courts (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        ... are the first level of courts, the trial level if a case comes to that. One judge to a case.

        (A magistrate (sort of a junior judge) might hear certain motions, preside over parts of cases, etc., in lieu of a judge, but they wouldn't sit together.)

        Many trial-level decisions are made without opinions although a case like this cries out for one. J Skretny (who was appointed by President Bush in 1990) is the Chief Judge of the Western District, a logical judge to handle a matter of this import.

        2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

        by TRPChicago on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:59:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Almost all. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        I think there may still be a couple of statutes that provide that a case is to be decided by a three-judge district court, but that's very rare.

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 11:00:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have to wonder if making a decision without (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        an arguments process will be a proverbial "Achilles Heal" that is somehow exploited or used as a technicality in the appeal process?

        I am not a lawyer and don't have a good understanding of the process, but it strikes me as something potentially odd.

        "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

        by blackhand on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 07:52:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Blackhand, the broken link is fixed (0+ / 0-)

          both in the diary and the correct link is at the bottom in the update.

          Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 08:02:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  So, you accidentally fire a semi-auto (5+ / 0-)

    tmservo433 has a "head slap" story up.

    So, you accidentally fire a semi-auto in a State Capital building...

    A Democratic legislator, poster child for mandatory safety training, proficiency testing.
     

    "I thought it was totally clear," Combs told WHAS11 Wednesday. "I am a gun owner. It happens."
    This is not lawful self defense. There is no 2A right to create a menace.

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:33:56 PM PST

  •  Lack of oral argument isn't unusual. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    The fact is that even appellate courts, where OA is customary, decide the cases based on the briefs. Usually, when a court holds OA, the judges already have a draft decision in their hands.

    Trial courts, such as federal district courts, generally hold fewer oral hearings. So it's not at all unusual that the judge decided the case on the briefs.

    It's the rare case in which OA makes a difference. Mostly it's just lawyer theater. It can be good theater, and very occasionally it's actually enlightening and useful. But most of the time OA is just a show.

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 11:07:50 PM PST

    •  There was some SCOTUS theater in Rosemond v US (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FogCityJohn

      Transcript of Oral Arguments at SCOTUS

      Is Justus Rosemond Done For... or Will He Get a New Trial?

      Reading the transcript was illuminating! They interrupt, talk over each other, and stammer... as they put their thoughts into words... so much so, that they seemed more human to me. The transcript was so hilarious, I thought some of our reader's might like to read the whole thing. TRPChicago broke it for us in a really neat way, pulling comments from the diary where he had previewed the petition.

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 08:13:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, SCOTUS is exceptional. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        When they grant cert in a case, they regularly hear oral argument.  And given the subtlety and complexity of the legal questions the Court deals with, it's one of the few places where OA may actually be helpful, although as you say, it's degenerated into a lot of grandstanding by the justices themselves.

        In the circuit courts of appeals, lots of cases are decided without OA at all.  In one case where I served as counsel, the Third Circuit scheduled OA and then cancelled it after reviewing the briefs.  They quite correctly realized I was completely right, and thus OA would serve no purpose.  :P

        "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

        by FogCityJohn on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 12:45:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Congratulations! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FogCityJohn

          It must be very satisfying to be persuasive that way.

          Thank you for explaining this aspect for us.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 01:44:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It was easy. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LilithGardener

            I represented the appellee (i.e., the party that had won in the district court), so I had all the deference appellate courts show to trial courts going for me.  Plus, the facts and precedent were very clearly in our favor.

            Oh, and yeah, my opposing counsel was, to put it charitably, mediocre.

            "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

            by FogCityJohn on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 04:54:38 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for doing the homework, Lilith. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    Having absorbed the briefs, what is the gun lobby content which was "ruled against"?

    What were the judge's working principles behind the rejection?

    •  YW, I'm still working my way through and (0+ / 0-)

      will report on my thinking and learning process as I go along.

      My hope is to learn something new, break down the jargon, and de-mystify some of the legal principles. We have a lot of problems in gun diaries when we lapse into jargon and it can seem like a foreign language.

      I see my role here as a student of "legal language 1010" and this diary as a series of "study hall" sessions. The meat of the decision will come, but before we can get there we need to define some terms, and figure which parts of the law were struck down as unconstitutionally vague.

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 07:30:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thx for your gift, Lilith. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    What is the best answer for the poll?

    Looking forward to the rest of this series ...

    2

    •  The best answer is "Speed to Decision" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks

      It is not listed. (ouch!)

      The first answer is not a factor in choosing "the venue" so by process of elimination, the correct answer can't be all of the above.
      That leaves only one correct answer to the Poll game - None of the above.

      I didn't intend to write a "trick question."

      I hadn't even thought of case processing speed as an answer choice, so this was just my inexperience and waiting until the last minute to come up with the poll Q&A. (Note to self!) If I had vetted my poll answers with FogCityJohn or JR or TRPChicago it would have been a better poll.

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 07:26:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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