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Public Law Legal Research Blog

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Ban on Possession of Large-Capacity Magazines Did Not Facially Violate the Second Amendment

Posted by John M. Stone on Wed, Apr 13, 2022 @ 10:04 AM

John Stone—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that assuming a California state statute prohibiting, with certain exceptions, the possession of large-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition implicated the Second Amendment, the statute did not facially violate the Second Amendment. Under an intermediate scrutiny analysis, the court reasoned that the statute was a reasonable fit for an important government interest of reducing the devastating damage wrought by mass shootings. Because it outlawed no weapon, it interfered only minimally with the core right of self-defense of home and family, and it saved lives. Duncan v. Bonta, 19 F.4th 1087 (9th Cir. 2021). In so holding, the court reversed the decision of a federal district court that had granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff gun owners. Duncan v. Becerra, 366 F. Supp. 3d 1131 (S.D. Cal. 2019).

            According to the Ninth Circuit in Bonta, California law allows owners of large-capacity magazines to modify them to accept 10 rounds or fewer. Owners also can sell their magazines to firearm dealers or remove them from the state. The law in question, California Penal Code § 32310, also provides several exceptions to the ban on large-capacity magazines, including possession by active or retired law enforcement officers, security guards for armored vehicles, and holders of special weapons permits.

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Topics: constitutional law, second amendment, large-capacity magazines, intermediate scrutiny analysis

CIVIL RIGHTS/CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Pitt Bull Owners’ § 1983 Action May Proceed

Posted by Trish Sifka on Fri, Mar 18, 2022 @ 12:03 PM

Trish Sifka—Senior Attorney,  National Legal Research Group                                     

            In May 2021, the Eight h Circuit affirmed the denial of the City of Minneapolis’s and a police officer’s motion to dismiss dog owners’ unlawful search and seizure claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. LeMay v. Mays, 18 F.4th 283 (8th Cir. 2021). Plaintiffs Jennifer LeMay and Courtney Livingston owned two pit bulls named Ciroc and Rocko, which were service animals for members of the family. Id. at 285. Livingston had accidentally triggered the burglar alarm. Officers Michael Mays and Daniel Ledman responded to conduct a residence security check. Officer Ledman went to the front door and Officer Mays climbed over a six-foot fence surrounding the backyard. After encountering Ciroc in the yard, Officer Mays s hot him. The other dog, Rocko, walked from the front door near his owner after Ciroc was shot in th e yard. Then, Officer Mays shot Rocko several times. Plaintiffs alleged that neither dog approached Officer Mays in a threatening manner. Although the dogs were not killed, both were critically injured enough so they were no longer able to act as service dogs. “LeMay and Livingston sued Mays and the City of Minneapolis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Mays unlawfully searched their home and seized their dogs in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the City was liable under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978).” Id. at 286. The Monell claim was dismissed. However, the district court denied the government’s assertion that Officer Mays was entitled to qualified immunity against the unlawful search and seizure claim.

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Topics: Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, qualified immunity, Trish Sifka, imminent danger

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: History and the Application of the Second Amendment

Posted by James P. Witt on Thu, Dec 16, 2021 @ 09:12 AM

Jim Witt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            Historical background has always played an important role in the development of case law under the U.S. Constitution. With the emergence of original-intent theory, history, especially the legal history of England, has become even more influential. This point is exemplified by the continuing questions that arise over the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, "Keeping and Bearing Arms—A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. "

            The case law that has developed under the Second Amendment has largely focused on issues arising in the context of a state's right to raise and maintain a militia, with no U.S. Supreme Court decision dealing with the extent of an individual's right to bear arms. This changed in 2008, however, when Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), in which the Supreme Court affirmed the right of an individual to keep arms in the home for self-defense.

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Topics: constitutional law, James P. Witt, second amendment, individual's right to bear arms, self-defense

Chevron Deference Does Not Always Result in Support for the Government's Position

Posted by Suzanne L. Bailey on Tue, Mar 16, 2021 @ 10:03 AM

Suzanne L. Bailey—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            It is well-established law that when a federal court reviews a federal agency's construction of a statute it administers, the court will look to whether Congress has addressed the precise question at issue. If the court determines that Congress has not directly addressed the issue, rather than imposing its own construction of the statute, the court will defer to the administrative agency's permissible construction of the statute. This standard of review is called Chevron deference, after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that articulated it. See Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842 (1984). While application of Chevron deference frequently results in a decision upholding the agency's interpretation of its own statute, a recent decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates that when the agency's interpretation is unreasonable, its interpretation will not prevail.

            In Amaya v. Rosen, No. 19-1619, 2021 WL 232554 (4th Cir. Jan. 25, 2021), a case that will be of interest to immigration practitioners specifically and administrative law practitioners generally—the Fourth Circuit held that even if Chevron deference applies to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") decisions interpreting provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") on a case-by-case basis, the BIA's interpretation cannot be sustained if it is unreasonable.

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Topics: Suzanne Bailey, Chevron deference, Amaya v. Rosen, administrative law, unreasonable statutory construction

CORONAVIRUS: Hoarding During the Pandemic

Posted by James P. Witt on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 @ 11:12 AM

Jim Witt—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            While the as yet unexplained hoarding of toilet paper may be thought of as the light side of the coronavirus pandemic, on the not-so-light side is the hoarding of medical supplies, notably drugs and medical equipment such as masks and ventilators. The federal government has taken two steps in this regard—first, an Executive Order from the President, and, second, a warning from the Department of Justice.

            Executive Order No. 13910, 85 FR 17001, "Preventing Hoarding of Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19" (Mar. 23, 2020), was announced under the authority of the Constitution and the Defense Production Act of 1950 (the "Act"), as amended (50 U.S.C. §§ 4501 et seq.).

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Topics: James P. Witt, COVID-19, presidential orders, hoarding, Defense Production Act

CONTRACTS: Emergency Orders and Delayed/Excused Action

Posted by Jason Holder on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 @ 11:12 AM

Jason Holder—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

       With the spread of COVID-19, most jurisdictions have declared a state of emergency and/or issued executive orders curtailing daily life. See, e.g., Cal. Exec. Order N-33-20 (Californians must "stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors"); D.C. Mayor’s Order 2020-054 (District residents must "stay in their residences except to perform essential activities, engage in essential business, provide or obtain government services, or engage in certain authorized recreational activities not involving close contact with other persons"); N.Y. Exec. Order 202.8 (nonessential businesses and nonprofit entities must "reduce the in-person workforce at any work locations by 100%"); Va. Exec. Order 53 (nonessential "brick and mortar retail business[es] . . . may continue to operate but must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment"). State and federal courts have also been forced to alter procedures, extend deadlines, or even limit court access. An updated list of orders, see https://web.csg.org/covid19/executive-orders/. Court closures and restrictions can be found at https://www.law360.com/articles/1252836.

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Topics: contracts, Jason Holder, COVID-19, executive orders, suspension of contractual obligation

FEDERAL TORTS CLAIMS ACT: Feres Doctrine Cracked? Opening of Pandora's Box or Further Encasement in Stone?

Posted by Trish Sifka on Thu, Oct 8, 2020 @ 11:10 AM

Trish Sifka, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act ("NDAA"), SB 1790, 133 Stat 1198, into law. This legislation included a substantial "crack" in the over 70-year-old, court-imposed Feres doctrine, which barred tort claims by military members against the United States for injuries incurred incident to service. Under this new provision in the NDAA, the Department of Defense ("DOD") can administratively receive, review, and settle tort claims filed by military members for personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of a DOD health-care provider. However, there are limitations. The injuries must not have been sustained in a combat zone. Claims are limited to medical malpractice claims against military medical personnel at military medical facilities. The provision also sets a two-year statute of limitations except for 2017 injuries that are filed in 2020.   Damages will be based on average federal court damages data for similar injuries. Claimants will be allowed to be represented by an attorney, but there is no judicial review.

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Topics: FTCA, Feres Doctrine, claims against DOD health-care provider, National Defense Authorization Act, Trish Sifka

FIRST AMENDMENT/PUBLIC HEALTH: Freedom of Religion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Steven G. Friedman on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 @ 11:06 AM

Steve Friedman, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of our lives have been severely altered and restricted in the name of public health. The extent of the states' police power is currently being tested amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and one such legal battleground involves the freedom of religious practice.

     As long ago noted by the Supreme Court, "[t]he right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community . . . to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death." Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166‑67 (1944). As illustrated below, even the fundamental right to gather in worship can be somewhat restricted by the government (i.e., prohibiting in-person services), but even such restrictions have limits (i.e., cannot ban drive-in services).

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Topics: First Amendment, Steven G. Friedman, COVID-19, public health, freedom of religion, state police power

CIVIL RIGHTS: Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders Struck Down in Florida

Posted by John M. Stone on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

John Stone—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

     Juvenile offenders and their parents brought a civil rights action against the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Secretary of the Department, challenging the constitutionality of state-wide policies and practices of isolating juvenile offenders in solitary confinement, and alleging claims for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act. Their claims withstood a motion to dismiss. G.H. ex rel. Henry v. Marstiller, No. 4:19CV431‑MW/CAS, 2019 WL 6694738 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 6, 2019).

     The source for the constitutional challenge was the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment. To support an Eighth Amendment challenge to conditions of confinement, the conditions must be objectively serious or extreme, that is, the prisoner must show that a condition of his confinement poses an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health or safety.

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Topics: Rehabilitation Act, ADA, civil rights, John M Stone, Eighth Amendment, conditions of confinement

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW:  Court Upholds Ordinance Prohibiting Discrimination Against Public Assistance Recipients

Posted by John M. Stone on Fri, Feb 21, 2020 @ 12:02 PM

John Stone—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

            A survey conducted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, indicated that barely half of the residential rental listings surveyed were affordable for persons receiving vouchers from the federal government's "Section 8" program, and only about a quarter of those affordable properties were willing to accept such vouchers. The backdrop was a vacancy rate in the city for low-income households of only about 2%.

            Citing this data and its desire to broaden housing opportunities for residents receiving the federal vouchers, the City enacted an ordinance that made it an unlawful discriminatory practice for a landlord to use "any requirement of a public assistance program as a motivating factor" to refuse to sell, rent, or lease real property. While voucher holders must meet the landlords' other requirements that are unrelated to Section 8 participation, landlords cannot avoid the ordinance just by citing business reasons for not wanting to participate in the Section 8 program.

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Topics: constitutional law, public assistance recipients, Section 8 vouchers, housing ordinance

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