Tag Archives: Justice Thomas

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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SCOTUS Properly Denied Cert in Peruta v. California

While it may come as a shock to many of our viewers, I am firmly of the position that the U.S. Supreme Court properly denied certiorari in Peruta v. California, given the significant rumors of Justice Kennedy’s impending retirement this summer – the result of which will trigger the biggest battle over the confirmation of a new justice that our Country has ever seen.

But what does that have to do with Peruta?

Well, if you remember, both D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago were 5-4 votes, which included Justice Kennedy in the majority; however, his exact position on the Second Amendment is not known, as he joined the majority opinion in U.S. v. Castleman, which, as Justice Scalia wrote, results in everything constituting domestic violence. Accordingly, even absent his retirement, he may not be a vote that we can count on in support of the Second Amendment.

Furthermore, since Heller and McDonald, we unfortunately lost the legal giant Justice Scalia. While Justice Gorsuch has now taken former Justice Scalia’s place on the Court, assuming he votes consistent with former Justice Scalia’s opinion of the Second Amendment (which seems extremely likely given the Dissent to the Denial of Certiorari to Peruta for which he joined), in the absence of Justice Kennedy, the 9th Circuit’s decision, upholding the draconian law, would likely be affirmed, since a 4-4 vote results in affirmation of the lower court’s ruling. While Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog has found precedent in such situations for re-argument once another Justice is confirmed, he has likewise found identical precedent where re-argument was not provided. Hence, we cannot count on re-argument being granted in a 4-4 tie situation.

While a tie vote affirmation is not precedential on lower courts, it would likely empower even more lower courts to ignore the dictates of the Second Amendment and Heller, McDonald, and Massachusetts v. Caetano, since the lower courts have seemingly thumbed their nose at the Court’s binding precedent. Specifically, in Heller, the Court declared that the definition of “bear arms” was to

wear, bear, or carry … upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of . . . being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.

Yet, lower courts have consistently upheld bans on carrying firearms in one’s pocket and permitted states to require an individual to obtain a license to carry a firearm concealed on his/her person.

Furthermore, in both Heller and McDonald the Court declared that the Second Amendment should not be analyzed in an interest-balancing approach.  Specifically, in Heller the Court declared

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding ‘interest-balancing’ approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government—even the Third Branch of Government—the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.

Likewise, in McDonald, the Court declared that the Heller Court “specifically rejected” “an interest-balancing test”. Yet, almost every federal court that has analyzed the Second Amendment has analyzed it under an interest balancing approach, generally only applying intermediate scrutiny.

For these reasons, until Justice Kennedy retires and is replaced by a jurist that recognizes the Second Amendment is an inalienable right, it is best for SCOTUS to continue denying certiorari in cases involving the Second Amendment.

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Justice Thomas’ Overlooked Second Amendment Statement

Many in the legal profession focus their Supreme Court decision review based on the areas of law in which they practice or otherwise have an interest in, but sometimes, the best support for a particular legal issue comes not from a case on point but in an opinion or concurrence which most would overlook. Last week, on March 30th, the Court issued a decision in Luis v. U.S., No. 14-419, relating to whether the Government can seize assets of a criminal defendant, prior to trial. While the topic may sound bland and unenticing to most, it is Justice Thomas’ concurrence that makes a profound statement about the Second Amendment – a statement that has been overlooked by almost all in the media and legal profession.

So what exactly did Justice Thomas say?

Constitutional rights thus implicitly protect those closely related acts necessary to their exercise. “There comes a point . . . at which the regulation of action intimately and unavoidably connected with [a right] is a regulation of [the right] itself.” Hill v. Colorado, 530 U. S. 703, 745 (2000) (Scalia, J., dissenting). The right to keep and bear arms, for example, “implies a corresponding right to obtain the bullets necessary to use them,” Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, 746 F. 3d 953, 967 (CA9 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted), and “to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use,” Ezell v. Chicago, 651 F. 3d 684, 704 (CA7 2011). See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 617–618 (2008) (citing T. Cooley, General Principles of Constitutional Law 271 (2d ed. 1891) (discussing the implicit right to train with weapons)); United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174, 180 (1939) (citing 1 H.Osgood, The American Colonies in the 17th Century 499(1904) (discussing the implicit right to possess ammunition)); Andrews v. State, 50 Tenn. 165, 178 (1871) (discussing both rights). Without protection for these closely related rights, the Second Amendment would be toothless. (Emphasis added).

This statement is so profound and logical; yet, many judges overlook it…or, possibly, their political views overshadow their oath to uphold the Constitution. Regardless, Justice Thomas, along with Justice Alito, appear to be the new voice for the Second Amendment on the Court. A voice that may be extinguished, if Justice Scalia’s replacement is not one who upholds and defends the oath that he/she has already taken and will again be required to take before taking the bench. With the elections quickly approaching, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a Constitutional jurist appointed to the Supreme Court.


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