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Judge Frederick J. Scullin, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

An embarrassing mistake by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia means that a preliminary injunction that stopped D.C. from requiring applicants for concealed firearms licenses to show “good reasons” for their application is no longer in effect. A few months ago, we reported on a case called Wrenn v. District of Columbia which challenged the District’s ordinance concerning the licensing of individuals to carry a concealed firearm for purposes of self-defense. Back in May, the Federal Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the part of that ordinance that required applicants to show “good reason/proper reason” because the Court found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their argument that this requirement was unconstitutional . . .

The District appealed the injunction, and just this week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order, but not for any substantive reason. Instead, the Appeals Court granted the District’s motion on a technicality: the Judge who issued the order did not have jurisdiction to make the decision.

A little bit of an explanation is in order here. When the case went to the District Court, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin handled the case and issued the order. There’s only one problem: Judge Scullin is a Senior Judge of the Northern District of New York.

Wait a minute – if Judge Scullin is from New York…what’s he doing in D.C.?

Well, the D.C. Courts had a bit of a backlog of cases, and Judge Scullin had been assigned to oversee several cases to help drain the swamp, so to speak. The process of assigning cases from one district to a judge who has jurisdiction over another district, however, is not just a matter of sending him an e-mail asking for help and forwarding the link to the files on the shared network drive. As the Court of Appeals held, a certificate of necessity needs to be presented to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, after which he can designate and assign specific duties to the judge outside his normal jurisdiction.

In this case, Judge Scullin “had served under a properly issued designation,” but that designation had been limited to “specific and enumerated cases”. (28 U.S.C. § 294(e) also specifies that “No retired [which includes Senior Judges like Judge Scullin] . . . judge shall perform judicial duties except when designated and assigned.”) Needless to say, Wrenn v. District of Columbia was not one of those enumerated cases. As a result, the injunction has now been thrown out, and D.C. can go back to enforcing its ordinance requiring applicants for firearms carry licenses to show “good reason” why they need the license.

For now, anyway. This isn’t the end of the case; the matter will now be heard by a different judge who (presumably) will have the appropriate jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

What isn’t clear at this point is the status of persons who received concealed firearms permits without having to show “good reason” after the preliminary injunction had been imposed. Based on reporting from the Washington Times, it appears that the District only allowed three such permits to be issued – for plaintiffs Brian Wrenn, Joshua Akery and Tyler Whidby. “[G]un owners at large were not able to bypass the “good reason” requirement while the case progressed through the system. (The District’s foot-dragging here was also the subject of a motion for contempt from the Second Amendment Foundation, which now, alas, appears to be mooted.)

Alan Gura, the firearms rights rockstar attorney who represented the plaintiffs advised that they were not going to challenge the ruling, and will instead go back to square one with a new judge. “The interest we have is moving this forward as quickly as we can practically do so,” Mr. Gura told the Washington Times.

It’s a disappointing decision, but not the worst outcome possible here. The facts on the ground and the constitutional law will be no different for the new judge, after all. What it does do is burn up time and resources for the plaintiffs, Mr. Gura, and the Second Amendment Foundation which is backing the lawsuit. Sometimes justice doesn’t go to the people who are in the right, but rather to the folks who have the money to pay the legal fees. The District can rely on involuntary contributions from taxpayers to pay its legal fees; the plaintiffs cannot do so. If you’re inclined to support this sort find yourself needing to make a few extra tax-deductible donations before the end of the year, well, you can look at the SAF’s website here, and decide whether or not this is the sort of case and organization you want to support.


DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

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  1. So now the case will be assigned to one of the vicious anti-Constitution black-robed thugs who populate the DC federal bench and the case will get a “fair” hearing, after which the plaintiff will be hung.

  2. BTW, the DC Circuit Court had already blocked Scullin’s injunction on the “good reason” requirement in the DC firearms licensing law. Now, the Circuit has kicked the original ruling (the one that held that DC’s non-issuance was illegal) as well.

  3. It’s truly unfortunate.
    Gura didn’t have his finest moments in that last hearing either. Tough case being made tougher with a jurisdictional issue. Yuck…

    I’m one of those who applied without their “Good Reason” requirement just after the stay was issued, barring enforcement of that rule. The stay was lifted and I was subsequently denied.

    As a Marylander who is equally infringed due to “Good and Substantial Reason”, I feel for my DC brethren.

  4. The only benefit to this is that many judges will say to DC: “Clear your own damn docket” and the city will sink further into it’s own top heavy cesspool. This place like all the crime ridden, Democrat dominated, anti-freedom pits, deserve what they get. If the feds all moved out DC would look like Detroit in less than a decade.

  5. “The District can rely on involuntary contributions from taxpayers to pay its legal fees; the plaintiffs cannot do so.”

    What is ultimately ironic here is that the gun-haters advance their case with money that has been collected from citizens at what would ultimately be the point of a gun, if that citizen chose to not pay their taxes voluntarily and on time.

    • TFred,

      It isn’t ironic at all. As far as Progressives are concerned, everything is on the table that helps them get what they want. And anything that stands in their way is emphatically off the table.

      Other people with firearms stand in the way of Progressives’ vision of utopia, so Progressives oppose “other people” having firearms. Progressives have never opposed their own people — elite Progressives, their body guards, their paid enforcers (police) — having firearms.

  6. This is not the first time I have heard of cases being thrown out when a substitute judge is put in to clear a backlog. Makes me wonder about intentionality. I find it hard to believe that neither the ones assigning the cases nor these retired judges hearing them know the rules. Or maybe you attorneys can weigh in. Has it gotten so bad that no-one knows the rules any more?

    • Gee, ya think? A case involving something so absolutely vital to the authoritarian stain that is Washington DC, as it’s precious monopoly of force, curve-balled over to the visiting pinch-hitter?

    • Is it normal to second guess the calendar committee’s assignments? Do better attorneys routinely challenge district courts’ decisions to assign a certain case to the judge most familiar with the issues? It certainly never occurred to any of DC’s attorneys. The Circuit Court was looking for any reason to pass the buck and DC happened to benefit from collateral dumb luck.

  7. I have no hope, or faith, in any democrat enclave, for restoration of enumerated rights via the thugs in black robes.

    It’s all a scam.

    • But, man-o-man, if this was homosexual marriage, planned parenthood, or any other, relatively obscure 9th amendment issue, that is near and dear to the socialists, they would have bent over backwards to make this, “right”, but an enumerated right, the second one, nooooooo….

      Technical this, legality that.

      What a crock.

  8. This is why ALL WRITTEN LAW should be mandated to be understandable at a twelfth grade reading level and easily summed up into bullet points.

  9. I’m trying not to get heartburn when I think that my tax dollars are being used to advance anti-gun cases and pay anti-gun judges. I don’t despise all lawyers and judges – just the ones who treat our rights like toilet paper.

  10. “The facts on the ground and the constitutional law will be no different for the new judge, after all…”

    If that’s the case they’ll find a new judge after that. And after that. The writing is on the wall…

  11. What a great system we have, huh? I mean, it wouldn’t matter what ruling the NY judge gave, it would have been tossed out, so what was the point? Great waste of tax dollars by a very efficient system.

  12. Shades of Peruta v County of San Diego I think. The government lost in Peruta and the court found a way for the state to get a do over. Very interesting how the court can decide an order was an oopsy when it is to the advantage of the state but if a defendant fails to file a timely appeal than they stay in jail forever regardless of guilt or innocence. Officers of the court cheat, lie and steal every day and we pay the price.

    Anyone else seeing a pattern here?

  13. If a judge from that district issues a different ruling, I would say it validates our claim of corruption within the judiciary in DC.

  14. So who’s responsibility was it to make sure that only cases over which the NY judge could legally have jurisdiction were assigned to him? Because that’s the person/department who should be compensating both the plaintiffs and the defendants for the massive waste of time.


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