The Second Amendment Foundation today filed suit in federal court in California, asking for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment against the state’s new law which includes a one-way fee shifting penalty in the government’s favor that applies only to litigation challenging state gun laws.
Joining SAF are plaintiffs James Miller; Ryan Peterson; John Phillips; Gunfighter Tactical, LLC; PWGG, L.P.; San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee; California Gun Rights Foundation; and Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc.; John W. Dillon; Dillon Law Group, P.C.; and George M. Lee. Defendants are California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Luis Lopez, Director of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms, in their official capacities. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, and is known as Miller v. Bonta.
The complaint asserts the law violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It also says the new California law enables government defendants to recover fees if a firearms plaintiff loses on any claim in the case, while the plaintiff can only avoid liability for fees if it prevails on every claim in the case. Therefore, firearms plaintiffs cannot be “prevailing parties” under Section 1021.11, meaning they are never entitled to recover fees and costs.
As noted in the lawsuit, SAF has been forced by the law “to refrain from challenging California gun-control laws that it believes are unconstitutional, including by forcing Plaintiff SAF to remove itself from litigation that had already commenced.”
“In its effort to silence any opposition to unconstitutional gun control laws,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb, “the California Legislature adopted this new statute which details when and under what circumstances attorney’s fees may be awarded in cases challenging those gun laws.
“Essentially,” he continued, “this new law is designed to suppress any defense of the Second Amendment in court by imposing standards that violate the First Amendment. The law upends Congress’s regulation of fee awards by, among other things, purporting to change who may be considered a ‘prevailing’ party entitled to fees. Simply put, the new law is unconstitutional, and it should not be allowed to stand.”
Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys David H. Thompson, Peter A. Patterson and Joseph O. Masterman with Cooper & Kirk, PLLC in Washington, D.C., and Bradley A. Benbrook and Stephen M. Duvernay at the Benbrook Law Group, PC in Sacramento.