My wisdom confirmed. Remember all those posts I wrote about how the Supreme Court's decision this July in DC v. Heller, declaring that the Second Amendment granted an individual right to bear arms, would have a profound effect on gun regulations? Posts like this one, in which I sagely predicted that "Heller will herald the beginning of the development of a significant, and up to now neglected, area of constitutional law"? Or this one, where I promised to "keep my eye out for the briefs and decisions that are sure to follow on this subject"?
Well, that turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. There has yet to be a single state or Federal court decision which relaxes a gun regulation in light of Heller. This post over at the Volokh Conspiracy recounts the most recent case, in which a district court brushed off the claim that Heller has any effect on the Federal statute which bans possession of a gun by anyone "who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance."
So all eyes were turned to the Supreme Court on Monday when it held oral argument on US v. Hayes. Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" from possessing a firearm. The question in Hayes is whether the prohibition applies only to a crime which has as an element a domestic relationship between the offender and the victim, or can it apply where there's a domestic relationship, even if that's not an element? (For example, if you were charged with beating up your wife, but pled out to simple misdemeanor assault, would the gun prohibition still apply?) This was the first gun case to reach the Court since Heller. Doc Berman over at Sentencing Law & Policy called it "the biggest sleeper case of the term" because of the "Second Amendment issues lurking deep inside," and noted that while the briefs mainly ignored that issue,
that does not mean that the Justices will not bring up Heller-related issues during oral argument. In other words, I am already looking forward to reading the Hayes oral argument transcript.
So the oral argument was on Monday, and you can read it here. The first reference to Heller doesn't come until... well, never. It's not mentioned. At all. Neither is the Second Amendment.
Another day in the life. New record for the Justice Center: when I went over there yesterday morning, the line for the elevators ran across the entire floor of the lobby and all the way back into the visitor's entrance to the county jail. That's a distance of nearly 300 feet. Plus, there were people standing in line to get into the building. A conversation I overheard in one of the courtrooms might give some clue as to what the problem is:
LAWYER: So, we're going to set this for trial on December 17?
BAILIFF: Yeah, as long as you understand we're not going to try it that day.
I know, gentle reader: you're thinking, "In what court system in the world do they set a trial date with the specific proviso that the case will not be going to trial on that date?" If you're ever on Jeopardy, you say, "I'll take 'Wheels of Justice' for $600, Alex," and that question pops up, the correct answer is, "What is Cuyahoga County?" There is actually a concept here known as the "fake trial": a case will be set for trial, all the witnesses will be subpoenaed, but the express understanding of the court and counsel is that no trial will be held, and the parties will try to work out a deal. I explained all this to my daughter over dinner last night, and she looked at me like I'd lost my mind.
Bad boys, whatcha gonna do? For those looking for some light reading, the annual Client's Security Fund report is out. Although the number of claims this past year (117) is higher than all but one since the fund was started in 1985, the amount shelled out -- just shy of $750,000 -- is the lowest since 1999. Those 117 claims were the result of actions by 47 attorneys, which the Report helpfully notes is but a fraction of the number of attorneys licensed to practice law in this state.
Lawyers up here in Cleveland can take some comfort from the fact that while we may not have any idea of how to run a court system, some of us, at least, sure have a handle on how to rip off clients: over a third of the lawyers cited were from Cuyahoga County, and two of our boys, Alexander Jurczenko and David Mazanec, were responsible for over $300,000, or 40%, of the total paid out of the fund.
There is only one Corky. Yesterday, the Supreme Court held oral argument in Pleasant Grove v. Summum, which is summarized thusly by SCOTUSblog:
In September 2003, the mayor of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, received an unusual letter from Summum "Corky" Ra, the leader of a little-known religious organization based in Salt Lake City. As he had done in other towns in Utah, Ra sought permission to erect a monument to the "Seven Aphorisms of Summum" in a city park, alongside a depiction of the Ten Commandments that had been donated to the city more than three decades prior.
"Unusual." Yeah, I'd say that covered it. I haven't checked yet, but I'm betting Heller wasn't mentioned in that one, either.