Author Archives: Prince Law Offices, P.C.

PRESS RELEASE: Lawsuit Filed Against City of Harrisburg Regarding Its Illegal Firearm and Ammunition Ordinances

Today, Firearms Industry Consulting Group, a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., filed an 87 page Complaint, plus exhibits, against the City of Harrisburg, Mayor Papenfuse and Police Chief Carter on behalf of Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC) and four individual plaintiffs regarding the City’s illegal and unconstitutional firearm and ammunition ordinances, regulations and policies, including:  3-345.1 – Possession of firearms by minors, 3-345.2 – Discharging weapons or firearms, 3-345.4 – Lost and stolen firearms, 3-355.2 – Emergency measures, and 10-301.13 – Hunting, firearms and fishing. It is docket no. 2015-CV-354-EQ. Unlike the previous complaint that was filed only pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, in this suit, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince argues that the City’s ordinances are violative of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6120, Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, it is also brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of civil liberties under color of law.

Although the City was provided an opportunity to repeal its illegal ordinances, in direct defiance of the state crime of Official Oppression, as well as, Section 6120, Mayor Papenfuse declared to Penn Live reporter Christine Vendel: “The city’s not going to repeal its ordinances, because our police department feels that they are in the public interest, and I do too.” Further, Police Chief Carter declared that: “officers regularly cite violators for reckless discharge of guns in the city and when minors are caught in possession of firearms.”

Mayor Papenfuse appears to be unaware that the Commonwealth Court in Dillon v. City of Erie, 83 A.3d 467, 473 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014), already ruled that the City of Erie’s ordinance prohibiting possession of firearms in parks, which is identical to 10-301.13, was unconstitutional and in violation of Section 6120. Further, in Clarke v. House of Representatives, 957 A.2d 361 (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct. 2008), the Commonwealth Court held that the City of Philadelphia’s lost and stolen ordinance was in violation or Article 1, Section 21 and Section 6120.

It is unfortunate that City’s taxpayers will be burdened by the City’s elected officials and law enforcement officers believing it is acceptable, and even gloating, that they are violating the Crimes Code by charging individuals, pursuant to illegal and unlawful ordinances, regulations and policies and refusing to repeal such illegal provisions.

As it is a misdemeanor of the first degree to violate Section 6120, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6119, we call upon Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico to bring charges against the City and its representatives for their violations of the Crimes Code, including conspiracy, solicitation, aiding and abetting, official oppression, and Section 6120. It is time that our elected officials be held accountable for their actions.

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Press Release: Pending Litigation Against Municipalities That Violate Section 6120

As many news agencies are reporting on Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG) Chief Counsel Joshua Prince‘s letter to the City of Harrisburg, we believe it is important that everyone be aware of some of the issues being overlooked by the reporting.

As of this release, the reporting has failed to reflect that any such ordinance or regulation by a municipality or county is a violation of Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code, even absent the Act 192 amendments. Pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6119, a violation of Section 6120, our state firearm preemption statute, is a misdemeanor of the first degree. This is the highest level misdemeanor that exists in the Commonwealth. In direct violation of the Crimes Code, Mayor Papenfuse has stated “The city’s not going to repeal its ordinances, because our police department feels that they are in the public interest, and I do too,” and Chief Carter said “officers regularly cite violators for reckless discharge of guns in the city and when minors are caught in possession of firearms.” It is unfortunate that our elected officials and law enforcement officers believe it is acceptable, and even gloat, that they are violating the Crimes Code by charging individuals, pursuant to illegal and unlawful ordinances and regulations.

Second, while some claim that such ordinances and regulations are in the best interest of the public, they have failed to show any statistical data that such ordinances and regulations deter/prevent crime or that other state level crimes, enacted by the General Assembly, are insufficient for prosecution. For example, if an individual recklessly discharges a firearm, depending on the circumstances, the individual can be charged with recklessly endangering another person, terroristic threats, aggravated assault and simple assault, all of which have been enacted by the General Assembly, are not prohibited by Section 6120 and carry grading levels of both felonies and misdemeanors. If the ability to charge an individual with a felony is not sufficient to dissuade that individual from committing a crime, clearly a summary offense, the lowest grade criminal charging that exists within the Commonwealth, will be insufficient to deter that criminal.

More importantly, whether it benefits the public is immaterial because the General Assembly has preempted any such regulation, as previously held by the PA Supreme Court and Commonwealth Court. If a municipality or county desires to have the law changed, instead of violating the Crimes Code, it can petition its representatives for such an amendment to the law. Unfortunately, due to municipalities ignoring the dictate of the General Assembly and District Attorneys failing to prosecute those that violate Section 6120, the Legislature was left with no recourse but to enact Act 192.

While we applaud those municipalities and counties that are taking immediate corrective steps to rescind their illegal ordinances and regulations, it is unfortunate that others, such as the City of Harrisburg, City of Philadelphia and City of Pittsburgh, are actively promoting the violation of our Crimes Code. What message does that send to our youth and the public? Is it in the public’s interest to have our youth believe that our elected official are above the law and will not be held accountable? If the concern is truly about the public interest, it is time that our elected officials take responsibility or be held responsible for their actions.

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Chief Counsel Joshua Prince Successful in Having the PSP Overturned 4 Times in One Day!

Today, we received notice in four separate matters that the determinations of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) were being overturned by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) appointed by the Attorney General. Attorney Joshua Prince, Chief Counsel of the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., represented the four individuals in their appeals from the PSP. These unrelated matters included two occasions, where the PSP refused to accept an out-of-state expungement/set-aside as relieving the individual’s firearm disability, one where an individual was stripped of his right to bear arms during probation, where the court had not ordered such restriction and one where the PSP contended the appeal was untimely, when the individual never received notice of the determination as required by law, even though the PSP conceded that the individual was not prohibited.

We wish to congratulate Attorney Prince on these successes and ensuring that our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

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Hearing Date Scheduled for Preliminary Objections to the Perry County Auditor’s Complaint

On July 21, 2014, Huntington County President Judge George Zanic issued an Order in Barbara Hench, et al (Perry County Auditors) v. Sheriff Carl Nace, docket no. 2014-454, directing that the Auditors are to file a brief in response to Sheriff Nace’s Preliminary Objections on or before August 21, 2014 and the hearing on the Preliminary Objections is scheduled for August 28, 2014, at 10:30am in Courtroom #2 of the Perry County Courthouse.

You can download a copy of the Order – here.

You can find a copy of the Preliminary Objections – here.

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Preliminary Objections Filed Against the Perry County Auditors’ Complaint

For those of you following the declaratory action that was filed against Perry County Sheriff Carl Nace by the Perry County Auditors, Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG) Chief Counsel Joshua Prince has filed preliminary objections to the Complaint on behalf of Sheriff Nace. You can download a copy of them – here. When a hearing date is set, we will let you know, so that you can come out and support Sheriff Nace!

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What Many People Don’t Understand About Attorney Billings and Consult Fees

Often times, a prospective client will call a law firm to speak with an attorney and become upset when the staff informs the prospective client that there is a fee for the consult. The client will typically respond that he just has “a question” for the attorney and that he shouldn’t be charged to simply ask a question. What the prospective client has failed to recognize is that attorneys, unlike many other professions/businesses, only have three things to sell: 1. their time; 2. their experience; and 3. their reputation.

An Attorney’s Time: When boiled down to the simplest form, an attorney only has his time to sell as a product. While some believe that only the pleadings and documents (complaints, motions, briefs, demand letters…etc) are an attorney’s product, the position fails to recognize that such is only a part of what an attorney does and provides to the client. Other aspects of representation include client meetings, research, drafting, and legal opinions/advice to prevent litigation, charging or issues with administrative agencies, just to name a few. When broken down into the simplest form, all of these are the result of the attorney’s time.

As stated by Abraham Lincoln, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” Like many of other workers, they’re paid for the time they invest in a matter. Similarly, they expect to be paid for the time they devote to the client’s affairs. That time can’t be broken down into some free units and some that are charged for. You wouldn’t think of going into a supermarket with the idea that the first pound of cherries you can eat while shopping are free and you only have to pay for what you take home with you. Sure, you may pick one out of the bunch to see if they’re to your liking, and no one will complain, but you can’t sit there eating cherry after cherry.

Further, unlike most hourly employees, in addition to possibly being fired or having their license revoked for providing substandard work, attorneys, generally, have to maintain malpractice insurance, in case of providing a client with inadequate representation. Malpractice insurance, like all insurance anymore, is not cheap and the attorney risks being found negligent for malpractice anytime he/she answers just “a question,” in relation to the law. Further, like any other business, there are overhead costs for buildings, staff, healthcare…and the list goes on.

Due to the costs and an attorney only having his time to sell, consult fees become necessary for an attorney and the firm.

An Attorney’s Experience: Many clients are unaware of the difference in representation by an attorney that is experienced in a particular area of the law versus a general practitioner or an attorney whose hourly rate is less because of his/her lack of experience in that area of law. That experience, which generally results in a higher hourly fee, also generally results in fewer hours being spent on the matter, as the attorney is familiar with the process, procedures and individuals/entities involved. The outcome is a net gain for the client, as although he/she is generally paying the attorney at a higher rate, the attorney’s work product and results are generally obtained in much less time. The attorney’s experience also permits the attorney to provide the client with a more realistic opinion on the likely outcome and potential issues that could arise.

An Attorney’s Reputation: One of the most overlooked aspects of hiring an attorney is the attorney’s reputation. The old adage that “it’s who you knows, and how you knows’ em” could not be more appropriately applied to any other profession or occupation (except for politics). While the attorney’s reputation in the legal community alone can be a great benefit to the client, when the attorney’s experience and reputation in a particular field are combined, the net benefit to the client can be exponential.

As an example, an attorney who is well known for handling particular a type of matter before a particular administrative agency is much more likely to be able to resolve the matter absent a hearing or litigation, because the opposing party is well aware of the attorney’s capabilities. Further, the attorney’s experience and reputation can additionally benefit the client by opening doors that are otherwise not available because the attorney knows whom to contact to obtain the necessary documents or resolve the issue. This is not to suggest bribes or other such unlawful or immoral exchanges, but rather, to explain that having a command of the legal issue(s) and knowing the right person to contact in relation to the issue(s), as well as that person’s knowledge of the capabilities of the inquiring attorney, can result in the issue being resolved, without need for drawn out litigation or appeals.

In considering an attorney’s reputation, you should consider:

  • Does the attorney settle every case or is he willing to appeal inappropriate decisions and fight for your rights? Opposing counsel will handle their negotiations differently if their opponent’s reputation indicates that settlement offers are quickly accepted versus a reputation of insisting on full payment, even if it means taking the case up the appellate chain.
  • A judge, experienced with the attorney’s representation, will take the reputation into consideration in every decision made. Has the attorney always been honest and truthful with the court? If so, and that attorney requests a continuance for x reason, the judge is more likely to accept x as fact and grant the continuance. If another attorney has excuses every week, trying to avoid progressing with litigation will likely be denied the requested continuance.
  • Does the opposing counsel have respect for the attorney’s reputation? If so, they are far less likely to push meaningless issues or obstacles to moving forward. They know they must be reasonable in offers as the attorney is not afraid to litigate the case, and has done so many times in the past.       Essentially, is this the fight they want to pick.

But What About Free Consults?: Many attorneys still offer free consults, but it is important to understand the history of free consults and what is actually being offered.

The offering of free consults began, in part, as the law started to evolve into specialized areas, while attorneys were still general practitioners. The law began to evolve at such a fast pace through new statutes and case law that the general practitioner was unable to keep up with the changes and provide competent representation to his/her client. Attorneys didn’t want to be labeled as shysters for collecting a fee, just to tell a potential client that he/she couldn’t handle the legal issue of the client. And so, the offering of free consults came to fruition.

The free consult was an opportunity for the attorney to understand the legal needs of the client and advise the client as to whether he/she could competently represent the client. If he/she couldn’t, the client didn’t pay simply to be told that the attorney couldn’t handle his/her needs. On the other hand, if the attorney could competently handle the matter, the attorney would discuss fees for handling the legal issues.

What the attorney did not do is provide legal advice for free. If the client arrived with forms and questions as to how to fill them out, the attorney would not explain to client how to fill them out as part of the free consult. Rather, the attorney only advised the client as to whether there were valid issues and if so, estimated the time that would likely be involved in protecting the client’s interests. It also provided the client with the opportunity to meet the attorney, determine if the attorney understands the issues and possesses the required skills. This is no different today.

It’s Still Just A Question: For some, the above is meaningless, as we move further into an entitlement society. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we all still have to put food on the table for our families, gas in our cars, and pay taxes to the Government. Contrary to popular belief, attorneys, much like doctors, are not making excessive salaries. A majority of lawyers are making between $40-$50k, while putting in 80-100hr workweeks. Moreover, the debt incurred to become an attorney, again much like doctors, is astronomical. And this is all before the overhead costs.

Just remember that next time you ask, while it may be “just a question,” an attorney has nothing more than his time, experience and reputation to sell and he/she, just like you, deserves to be paid for his/her time.

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Chief Counsel Joshua Prince to Represent Perry County Sheriff Carl Nace

It is with extreme honor and privilege that we announce that Chief Counsel Joshua Prince of the Firearms Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P.C., has been retained as special counsel to Perry County Sheriff Carl Nace in relation to a recent lawsuit filed against Sheriff Nace by the Perry County Auditors demanding that he disclose confidential license to carry firearms (LTCF) applicant information in violation of the law. As readers of our blog are aware from previous blogs by Attorney Prince, Sheriff Nace has stood steadfast in his refusal to turn over the information and even the Perry County Commissioners support Sheriff Nace in this matter.

When he learned that the Auditors had filed suit against Sheriff Nace, Attorney Prince offered his time pro-bono to represent Sheriff Nace because of the issue involved and his experience litigating the confidentiality provisions of Section 6111(i). When asked for comment, Attorney Prince simply stated “I’m honored to be acting as special counsel to Sheriff Nace and look forward to a speedy resolution of this matter in his favor.”

Please join us in supporting Sheriff Nace in his steadfast dedication to the protection of our rights!

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