In a highly controversial move, the leadership of the Connecticut Bar Association lobbied to pass Governor Dannel Malloy’s restrictive “toughest-in-the-nation” gun control laws. The move has sparked unprecedented opposition within the body. From the courant.com: “‘Why is our bar association taking a position on a matter that has nothing to do with the practice of law?’ Hartford lawyer and former Democratic state Chairman John Droney asked in an email typical of hundreds of others inspired by a debate that has continued now for two months.” . . .
Connecticut Bar president Mark Dubois replied:
Dubois contends the bar serves the public by permitting experts in its specialty sections to debate and take positions on sharp legal questions. If the association races toward an unpopular, minority position, he said membership can use its referendum right as a restraint.
“As one member said to me, what’s next?” Dubois said. “Immigration. Obamacare? And I said, ‘Yes. All of those and probably more that we haven’t even thought about.’ All of which have legal implications and all of which may involve a request by one or more of our constituent sections.”
Anyone who has studied the dynamics of such groups realizes that such a position amounts to a blank check to the leadership for whatever it can get away with. As the leadership controls a significant amount of the information that the membership receives, this gives it considerable power and leverage to influence events outside of the core issues of the group.
It was pretty clear that in this case, though, a significant percentage of the the membership didn’t support the lobbying effort.
Dubois isn’t finished, though. He pushed for an amicus brief to defended the law against an appeal pending in the the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
After listening to entreaties by past association presidents and a lawyer who also is a Newtown selectman, the house of delegates voted 34 to 15 to join with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in defense of the law — in spite of signs that a substantial portion of the membership might be opposed. Among the signs: A straw poll showing opposition was running 4-to-1 in one of the association’s biggest sub districts, Hartford.
But the gun culture has developed its own media outlets that act as a check on the ability of others to shape the narrative. This has been well-documented in Professor Brian Anse Patrick’s book “Rise of the Anti-Media“.
The Connecticut Bar membership has taken up Dubois’ challenge. Enough signatures have been gathered to force a referendum, something that hasn’t happened in, well, decades.
On Aug. 5, lawyers opposed to joining the Brady defense had collected sufficient petition signatures to force a referendum. Dubois said he cannot recall that happening during his 40 years as a bar member.
The referendum vote result was released on Wednesday. Dubois said that it was very close. From NSSF, an email report:
The final vote announced Wednesday afternoon was so close that CBA President Mark Dubois wrote members, “I am ruling that the referendum vote will be called as tied. I do not feel that the best interests of the CBA would be served going forward without a clear and empirically defensible result. Accordingly, I have decided not to sign the brief prepared by the Brady Center in support of the Appellee in the matter of Shew v. Malloy.”
It would be nice to know the actual vote count. Mr. Dubois must have released it to the membership. Some might wonder if Mr. Dubois would have given this response if the result was in his favor.
Update: The vote was reported in the courant.com as 734 in favor of an amicus brief to 729 opposed. This lends credence to Mr. Dubois’ decision, and his character as a leader. From the courant.com:
Dubois said Wednesday afternoon that the vote may have been even closer, as issues with a new website format may have hampered some members’ efforts to vote late Tuesday night.
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