United States Supreme Court building at dawn
In Lane v Holder
three gun owners have appealed to the Supreme Court to answer this question.
Do consumers have standing to challenge the constitutionality of laws regulating gun sales?
The plaintiffs are represented by Alan Gura, who won appeals in the landmark cases District of Columbia vs. Heller and McDonald vs. City of Chicago. The petition was distributed for conference of October 11, 2013 but the Court has yet to announce whether they will hear the case.
Do you think guns should be regulated like books? Join us below the fold as we speculate on whether SCOTUS will agree to hear the appeal in Lane v. Holder.
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|Lane v. Holder Documents
|Petition for a writ of certiorari (filed May 28, 2013 - pdf 185KB).
Two courts of appeals have held that consumers have standing to challenge the constitutionality of federal laws regulating the sale of firearms. Another
court of appeals has held that consumers wishing to access gun ranges have standing to challenge a city ordinance prohibiting range operation. But the court below held that a criminal law prohibiting gun dealers from effecting retail transactions does not cause
consumers an injury-in-fact, and that consumer injuries occasioned by the prohibition are not traceable to the Government.
The question presented is: Whether consumers have standing to challenge the constitutionality of laws regulating the sale of firearms.
|Brief amicus curiae of Community Association for Firearms Education (filed June 26, 2013 - pdf 392KB)
|Brief amicus curiae of American Civil Rights Union (filed July 1, 2013 - pdf 111KB)
|Brief of respondent Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General in opposition (filed July 22, 2013 - pdf 96KB)
|Reply of petitioners Michelle Lane, et al. (filed September 24, 2013 - pdf 90KB)
|DISTRIBUTED for Conference of October 11, 2013.
New readers may want to start with TRPChicago's tutorial in 60 Cases and Counting: What Gun Case Will SCOTUS Take Next?
WHAT CASES GET HEARD? Upwards of 8500 cases are presented to the Court during each nine month term. The Justices confer two or three times a month to decide which 80 or so cases they will take for briefing and oral argument. Before they vote, they accept briefs on the question whether the issues presented merit the Court's attention. Lane was scheduled for SCOTUS's conference in October but the Court did not announce whether it would take up the case; the NRA case is not yet on the conference calendar for consideration.
So ... how does the Court determine what it will hear? One thing the Court does particularly well is to control its work load in the face of pleas by some of the best and brightest advocates in the law profession. Only the issues most inviting to any four justices make the cut.
The Court has devised many ways to screen cases. A key factor is the significance of the issues presented. That invites disputes on precisely what issue(s) a given case presents. The Court has been known to reframe the question it wants the parties to address. Another key factor is whether lower court decisions have split on the issue, the Court being more disposed to resolve a case if there are conflicts among the Federal appellate courts. In Lane v. Holder, the government disputes Lane's contention that there are divided decisions. In NRA, as quoted above, the petitioners argue that lower Federal courts are "stubbornly" obstructing SCOTUS's Second Amendment holdings.
A vital touchstone for invoking Federal jurisdiction is "standing". Do the parties have a sufficient interest to bring the case? This concept is variously referred to as having a personal stake in the outcome or having suffered or been threatened with actual injury. This sounds like an elastic concept that could be flexibly applied, and it certainly is. The prospective buyers in Lane, for example, analogize their situation to books - if some statute prohibited selling books across state lines, is there any doubt that prospective buyers' First Amendment rights would be at risk?
When applied to constitutional litigation, considerations of standing help the courts control invitations to deal with what often are policy judgments within the purview of a legislature.
This business of accepting cases for review takes place for the most part (some cases can be taken as a matter of right) under the rubric of granting Petitions for Writs of Certiorari. All this means is whether SCOTUS will ask a lower court to send along its record and opinions for further review. (When SCOTUS asks, the answer is always Yes.) Granting "cert" is entirely within the Court's discretion. It does not give reasons for granting or refusing cert, prompting much frustrated speculation. And importantly, no precedential value is to be accorded the Court's action, despite the fact that not accepting the case leaves in place the decision reached by the lower court. Even after it hears the merits of a case, the Court can reject cert as "improvidently granted," which is the Court's law language for "oops."
...Continue reading 60 Cases and Counting: What Gun Case Will SCOTUS Take Next?
Since I am not an attorney I usually start by pinning down some basic terms.
|DEFINITIONS from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University
PETITION FOR CERTIORARI
[A petition for certiorari is also used to request that SCOTUS resolve a difference of opinion among the lower Federal courts. There are 13 Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals. When a significant difference of opinion arises among them, it creates confusion in the law, since the outcome of a case will depend on where the case is heard. In legal Jargon that is called a "circuit court split". Plaintiffs can appeal to SCOTUS to resolve the difference and clarify the law. Circuit court decisions are only binding over the district courts within the circuit court that decided the case, but SCOTUS decisions set binding precedent over the whole country.]
A petition that asks an appellate court to grant a writ of certiorari. This type of petition usually argues that a lower court has incorrectly decided an important question of law, and that the mistake should be fixed to prevent confusion in similar cases.
WRIT OF CERTIORARI
A writ of certiorari. orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it. The word certioari comes from Law Latin and means "to be more fully informed."
At the Federal level, legal actions cannot be brought simply on the ground that an individual or group is displeased with a government action or law. Federal courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (see Case or Controversy). Only those with enough direct stake in an action or law have "standing" to challenge it. A decision that a party does not have sufficient stake to sue will commonly be put in terms of the party's lacking "standing".
Our prior diaries on gun laws appealing to SCOTUS for review
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