Category Archives: Uncategorized

Omnibus Spending Bill, H.R. 3354, Passes House and Provides Funding for Federal Firearms Relief Determinations – IN SENATE

Once again the House omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 3354, provides funding for ATF to conduct federal firearms relief determinations under 18 U.S.C. § 925(c). Since 1992, Congress has specifically denied ATF the ability to utilize any funds they are appropriated to conduct these determinations. Further, ATF will not allow an individual to fund their own hearing, rendering a person’s options for relief at the federal level limited to Second Amendment as-applied challenges and/or presidential pardons.


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It is important that you contact your Senators immediately and demand they pass the bill with the funding for federal firearms relief determinations in the final language.

Who is My Senator?

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If this bill were to pass with funding reinstated for the program, thousands of individuals who are currently prohibited may be able to once again exercise their Second Amendment rights.


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Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in ANOTHER Second Amendment Case


Once again the Supreme Court has denied certiorari in another Second Amendment Case. Silvester, et al. v. Becerra was an appeal from the 9th Circuit challenging California’s 10-day waiting period to firearm purchasers. In particular, the petition for certiorari raised the issue of whether the 9th Circuit “improperly applied lenient scrutiny in a Second Amendment challenge to the application of California’s full 10-day waiting period to firearm purchasers who pass their background check in fewer than 10 days and already own another firearm or have a concealed carry license; and (2) whether the Supreme Court should exercise its supervisory powers to cabin the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s concerted resistance to and disregard of the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decisions.” (SCOTUS Blog Case Summary).


Justice Thomas, once again, issued a scathing dissent from the denial of certiorari.  He noted that the analysis the 9th Circuit employed was “indistinguishable from rational-basis review.” For those readers unfamiliar with the levels of scrutiny, rational-basis is the lowest standard a court employs with respect to constitutional rights.

 …it is symptomatic of the lower courts’ general failure to afford the Second Amendment the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.

Justice Thomas continues “[i]f a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt that this Court would intervene. But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court.”

Petitioners Jeff Silvester and Brandon Combs (Firearms Policy Coalition) brought suit challenging California’s 10 day waiting period under the Second Amendment, specifically that the waiting period was unconstitutional as applied to “subsequent purchasers”. The District Court entered a judgment for the Petitioners.

The District Court, after applying an intermediate scrutiny analysis, found that the waiting period was not reasonably tailored to promote an important government interest. It is at the District Court that findings of fact occur. The Court found, among other things, that twenty percent of background checks are auto-approved and took less than two hours to complete. Silvester v. Harris, 41 F. Supp. 3d 927, 964 (ED Cal. 2014). It also found that the arguments for the “cooling off period”, while novel, were inconclusive as to their effectiveness. Id at 954-955. The Court noted that the studies presented by the government, seemed “to assume that the individual does not already possess a firearm.” Id. at 966.


California, unsurprsingly, appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit, which reversed the District Court’s judgment, upholding the 10 day wait period. The 9th Circuit, claimed to have applied intermediate scrutiny, but as Justice Thomas noted, “its analysis did not resemble anything approaching that standard.” Perhaps most egregious is that the 9th Circuit did not defer to the District Court’s findings of fact.

The Ninth Circuit’s deviation from ordinary principles of law is unfortunate, though not surprising. Its dismissive treatment of petitioners’ challenge is emblematic of a larger trend. As I have previously explained, the lower courts are resisting this Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald and are failing to protect the Second Amendment to the same extent that they protect other constitutional rights. (emphasis added).

The dissent shows Justice Thomas’s frustration with the Supreme Court’s continued denial of certiorari in Second Amendment matters. “The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message.”

Time will tell if the Court opts to pick up a Second Amendment challenge in the future. Justice Gorsuch joined Justice Thomas in his dissent from the denial of certiorari in Peruta v. California, signaling that he too believes Second Amendment issues are ripe for discussion.


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The 3rd Circuit holds debtors may sue creditors who offer to settle time-barred debt under the FDCPA.

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, rendered an opinion in the class action, Michelle Tatis vs. Allied Interstate, LLC: John Does 1-25, No. 16-4022, clarifying whether time-barred offers from creditors to settle old obligations violated the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (“FDCPA”). On appeal, the 3rd Circuit reversed a decision by the United States District Court for the District Of New Jersey granting Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss suit. Plaintiff, Michelle Tatis, commenced a class action suit against Defendant, Allied Interstate, LLC, alleging that a collection letter sent by Allied offering to settle her time-barred debt violated the FDCPA’s prohibition against using “any false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. Tatis had a ten year old debt of $1,289.86 owed to Bally Total Fitness which Allied sought to collect by sending a letter offering to settle the obligation for pennies on the dollar.

In the state of New Jersey, the statute of limitations to commence a debt collection action is six years. Pennsylvania has a four year statute of limitations to commence a debt collection action. What that means is that if the 6 years, or 4 years in Pennsylvania, has passed since a debtor defaulted on his/her obligation to pay his/her debt, a creditor cannot sue the debtor to recover the debt. It does not mean that a creditor cannot offer to settle and that a debtor cannot voluntarily agree to repay the debt. A debtor may voluntarily agree to repay the obligation for personal reasons or a desire to honor the obligation. However, there is no legal threat to the debtor after the statute of limitations has passed. Whether or not an offer to settle misrepresents the legal status of a time-barred obligation is the focus of the 3rd Circuit’s Opinion.

In Tatis, Allied sent a letter after the statute of limitations had run stating: “[The creditor] is willing to accept payment in the amount of $128.99 in settlement of this debt. You can take advantage of this settlement offer if we receive payment of this amount or if you make another mutually acceptable payment arrangement within 40 days . . . .”

Tatis’ complaint alleged that Tatis interpreted the word “settlement” in the letter to mean that she had a “legal obligation” to pay the debt, and the least- sophisticated debtor would hold a similar belief. Tatis claimed that letter violated several prohibitions of the FDCPA including: §1692 e(2)(A), falsely representing the legal status of debt; §1692e(5), making false threats to take legal action that cannot be legally taken; and §1692e(10) using false representations and/or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect a debt. Allied filed a Motion To Dismiss alleging that no threat to take legal action was made to Tatis by the settlement letter.

The U.S. District Court agree with Allied and held that an attempt to collect a time-barred does not violate the FDCPA unless it is accompanied a threat of legal action. District Court stated that the use of the word “settlement” in a letter did not constitute a threat of legal action. Finally, The U.S. District Court held that because under New Jersey law partial repayment would not revive the statute of limitations, the letter could not deceive or mislead a consumer into inadvertently reviving the debt.

The 3rd Circuit in reversing the District Court focused on the remedial nature of the FDCPA and the broad prohibitions set forth in the FDCPA by Congress to curb abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. Because of the remedial nature of the FDCPA, its language is construed broadly to protect debtors. In addition, the “least sophisticated debtor” standard is used to determine whether any debt collection practices violate the FDCPA. The “least sophisticated debtor” standard is a very low standard which does requires a plaintiff to prove that he or she was mislead, but only that the least sophisticated debtor could be mislead.

The 3rd Circuit looked at several other court decisions involving similar settlement letters which found that offers to “settle” could mislead the least sophisticated debtor to believe that debt was legally enforceable in court. The 3rd Circuit agreed with its sister courts and held that in the specific context of a debt-collection letter, the least-sophisticated debtor could be misled into thinking that “settlement of the debt” referred to the creditor’s ability to enforce the debt in court rather than a mere invitation to settle the account. The 3rd Circuit concluded that the least-sophisticated debtor could plausibly be misled by the specific language used in Allied’s letter and vacated the District Court’s order granting Allied’s motion to dismiss. However, the 3rd Circuit would not go as far as to hold that standing alone, settlement offers and attempts to obtain voluntary repayments of stale debts constitute deceptive or misleading practices. Additionally, the 3rd Circuit declined to hold that the use of the word “settlement” is “misleading” as a matter of federal law or mandate the use of any specific language. The 3rd Circuit, in keeping with the text and purpose of the FDCPA, reiterated that any such letters, when read in their entirety, must not deceive or mislead the least-sophisticated debtor into believing that she has a legal obligation to pay the time-barred debt.

What it means for creditors is that they must very careful in drafting “settlement offers” for time-barred debt. A settlement offer cannot imply that a time-barred debt is legally enforceable. The 3rd Circuit believed the word “settle” could imply “concluding or avoiding a lawsuit.” Perhaps a disclaimer that no legal action can or will be taken if the debtor choses to voluntarily repay the debt.

With regards to debtors, if the language of settlement letter would mislead an unsophisticated consumer into believing that if he or she does not settle the time-barred debt he or she may be subject to suit, then that letter may violate the FDCPA. A debtor who receives a settlement letter may bring suit against the creditor. Under the FDCPA, a debtor may sue for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000.00 per violation, and attorney’s fees so long as the suit is commenced within a year of the violation.

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Doctors and dispensaries may not advertise participation in PA’s medical marijuana program but they can educate the public.

Despite some serious concerns caused by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to abandon the Cole Memo guidelines for how the Department of Justice would treat state medical and recreational marijuana programs, the legal state programs are continuing to move forward. There is simple too much demand, interest, and money involved in the marijuana industry to put the genie back in the bottle.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is set to begin in full this year. To date, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has approved 10 grower/processors to begin operations and three dispensaries. The demand and interest is evident and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program. Given the substantial investment in the program, you would think it would be a high priority to notify and educate interested patients on how to participate in the program. However, Pennsylvania law prohibits growers/processors and dispensaries from advertising or promoting themselves.

Moreover, certified doctors are prohibited from advertising their services to write cannabis recommendations. As marijuana is still illegal under federal law, doctors cannot prescribe medical marijuana but may write recommendations under state law. There are over 14,000 patients who have registered but only 2,300 have been certified by doctors. Additionally, physicians continued to register to participate in the program with over 625 registered, of which 326 have been certified by the state.

Given the level of interest and investment, one would think it would be a priority to notify patients on how they can participate in the program, to identify doctors who can recommend medical marijuana and to list where it can legally be purchased. Certified doctors and dispensaries are listed on the Department of Health’s website but the Department of Health has no budget for advertising the program. The Pennsylvania Department of Health believes that all the information a patient will need is on the state’s website.

Dispensaries and doctors must get creative. Under the law, there is no prohibition against educating the public about the medical marijuana program. Dispensaries and doctors can post educational blogs, youtube videos, and/or devote sections of their websites to informing people of the program. Use social media to promote the program itself but do not advertise. So long as there is no direct advertisement or publication of their participation in the medical marijuana program, participants in the program should not run afoul of the law. Instead, they may direct any prospective patients to the Department of Health’s website where the certified doctors and approved dispensaries are legally listed. Certified doctors and approved dispensaries will have to thread the needle until the law changes.

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PaPUC Initiates Further Study of Supplier Consolidated Billing by Electric Generation Suppliers

puc_sealOn January 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated further study of customer billing practices by competitive electric generations suppliers (EGSs) – directing an en banc hearing be conducted before the Commission to explore, among other things, the legality, merits and potential implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB).

The Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition filed by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), requesting approval of SCB, but also approved a joint motion by Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Norman J. Kennard to further explore the the merits of possible alternatives to SCB.

Under SCB, customers would receive a single, consolidated bill from their chosen EGS that would include both their electric distribution company’s (EDC) distribution charges and their EGS’s generation and transmission charges.  Currently in Pennsylvania, EDCs handle all customer billing, with the EDC joint bill including any generation and transmission charges for customers with competitive EGSs.

The joint motion by Chairman Brown and Commissioner Kennard outlined the ongoing exploration of the issue by the Commission.

“We continue to be of the opinion previously expressed by the Commission as part of our retail electricity market investigation that SCB will facilitate the offering of innovative new products and services and will also help the supplier in establishing a brand identity with the customer,” Commissioner Kennard stated in the joint motion. “In order to continue the consideration of SCB and other programs that can promote a competitive market and benefit customers, we find that it is necessary to seek further information.”

The Commissioners’ joint motion directs the PUC’s Law Bureau and Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to organize an en banc hearing, to occur on or before June 14, 2018, to allow invited parties the opportunity to provide additional information on SCB or SCB alternatives.  The Commission plans to issue a Secretarial Letter with more details on the en banc hearing.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Pennsylvania State Police Reiterate ATF Position on Medicinal Marijuana


It should come to no surprise that the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) have issued a position statement in relation to Pennsylvania’s new card carrying medicinal marijuana users. Once again, individuals who seek to use marijuana for medicinal purposes are forced to choose between the comfort they find in medicine or their constitutional rights.

Marijuana is still a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, which means that regardless of what state law says, at the federal level, it is still illegal to possess. Medicinal marijuana has grown in popularity since California legalized it in 1996 with a majority of states legalizing it in some form. However, the federal government has not taken any action to legalize it for medicinal purposes and DEA recently declined to reclassify it.

Medical marijuana card holders in Pennsylvania should take note of the following. It has been ATF’s position since 2011, that if an individual is merely in possession of a medical marijuana card, they are prohibited from purchasing a firearm. This is based on the theory that the transferor would have “reasonable cause to believe” that the person is an “unlawful user or addicted to a controlled substance.” In other words, it could be inferred that you fit that category by merely possessing a license, regardless of whether you obtained it for actual use or a political statement.

The statement also tells individuals that “[i]t is unlawful for you to attempt to purchase a firearm under Federal law and you will be denied during your Pennsylvania State Police background check, due to prohibitions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3),” which would seem to suggest that the information of medical marijuana users will be contained in the PSP’s central repository of information and/or sent to NICS.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I have not researched the medical marijuana law to see if that is the case or whether there are HIPAA concerns, etc., this is just a theory.

The PSP also states that an individual is unable to lawfully obtain a License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”) and that “[t]he sheriff should not process your application if you truthfully indicate to the sheriff that you are the holder of a Medical Marijuana Card.” Moreover, the PSP continue to say “you will be denied during the Pennsylvania State Police background check, which occurs as part of the LTC application or renewal process,” again suggesting information pertaining to medical marijuana users are retained by the PSP and/or transmitted to NICS.

Perhaps most interesting about the PSP’s statement is this

It is unlawful for you to keep possession of any firearms which you owned or had in your possession prior to obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card, and you should consult an attorney about the best way to dispose of your firearms.  Again, this is due to prohibitions under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3).

Essentially, PSP is contending that you are an unlawful user of a controlled substance if you obtain a medical marijuana card. However, possession of a card does not automatically equate to the use of the substance. So for individuals who seek to obtain a medical marijuana card for a political statement, be aware of the PSP’s position on the matter. That is one that will eventually require litigation.


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ATF to Publish Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Re: Application of the Definition of Machinegun to “Bump Fire” Stocks and Other Similar Devices

EDIT 3: Publication date is now scheduled for 12/26/2017. Deadline for submissions would be Thursday, January 25, 2018.

EDIT 2: Document has been reposted. Link is working again.

EDIT: It appears the document has been removed “The Office of the Federal Register withdrew this document after it went on public inspection due to technical errors.” I’ll be keeping my eye for a repost.


Tomorrow, ATF will publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the application of the definition of machinegun to “Bump Fire” stocks and other similar devices. As many have feared, it appears that the regulatory agency is soliciting information to help draft a rule which may potentially lump bump fire stocks, binary triggers, etc., within the definition of machinegun.

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Comments are due thirty (30) days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. Assuming that nothing goes awry with the publication tomorrow, that would mean any comment you wish to submit in opposition to this advance notice would need to be submitted by 11:59 PM on Sunday, January 21, 2018 11:59 PM on Thursday, January 25, 2018. While one might expect an extra day to be provided to place the deadline on a Monday, agency rules govern. ATF confirmed via telephone that the deadline was Sunday.

ATF is specifically seeking feedback from consumers regarding the following:

  1. In your experience, where have you seen these devices for sale and which of these has been the most common outlet from which consumers have purchased these devices (e.g., brick and mortar retail stores; online vendors; gun shows or similar events; or private sales between individuals)?
  2. Based on your experience or observations, what is (or has been) the price range for these devices?
  3. For what purposes are the bump stock devices used or advertised?

The ATF has a broad range of questions for manufacturers including:

  1. For what use or uses have you marketed bump stock devices?
  2. If ATF classified bump stock devices as “machineguns” under the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended, and the National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended, what would you expect to be the impact on your gross receipts for calendar year 2018?
  3. If ATF classified bump stock devices as “machineguns” under the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended, and the National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended, what other economic impact would you expect (e.g., storage, unsellable inventory)?
  4. If ATF classified bump stock devices as “machineguns” under the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended, and the National Firearms Act of 1934, as amended, do you believe that there would be a viable (profitable) law-enforcement and/or military market for these devices? If so, please describe that market and your reasons for believing such a viable market exists.

The ATF asks retailers similar questions.

All comments must:

  1. reference docket number 2017R-22;
  2. be legible (I expect most submission will be done electronically); and
  3. include the commenter’s complete first and last name and full mailing address.

ATF will not consider, or respond to, comments that do not meet these requirements or comments containing profanity. In addition, if ATF cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, ATF may not be able to consider your comment.

If you’re a consumer, I suggest you submit a comment to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking. For helpful hints on how to draft a comment, take a look at the information in the article I wrote for Recoil Web, although some of that information would be more applicable for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

If you represent a manufacturer or a retailer and want to inquire about obtaining services for the drafting of a comment, please contact the office as soon as possible to ensure sufficient time to draft a comment.


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