Tag Archives: “sheriff”

Monumental Decision from Commonwealth Court on Confidentiality of License to Carry Firearms Applicant Information

On Friday, May 20th, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued a monumental decision in John Doe, et al., v. Franklin County, et al., 1634 C.D. 2015, a case that I litigated, where it declared that the disclosure of license to carry firearms (“LTCF”) applicant information to anyone other than law enforcement acting within the scope of their official duties or the applicant (or someone approved by the applicant) violates 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(i), which results in “civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.”

In a 45 page decision, which reviewed, inter alia, the history of Section 6111(i), the constitutionality of its enactment, the Pennsylvania State Police’s own regulations relating to it and whether a Sheriff can claim High Public Official Immunity in relation to it, the Commonwealth Court declared

“any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department” violates Section 6111(i) of the UFA by revealing an “applicant’s name or identity” to a person not (1) authorized to receive such information by statute; (2) involved in the operation or management of the sheriff’s office; (3) representing a law enforcement or criminal justice agency; or (4) otherwise authorized by an applicant. Any other interpretation of Section 6111(i) of the UFA where a License applicant’s confidentiality is not safeguarded would be inconsistent with the UFA’s purpose and structure.

The Court also found that Defendants’ challenge to the constitutionality of how Section 6111(i) was enacted was untimely whether under the doctrine of laches, as Plaintiffs argued, or whether under the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Sernovitz v. Dershaw. Accordingly, although Plaintiffs additionally argued that Section 6111(i) was constitutionally enacted, the Court stated that due to the failure of Defendants, or any other party, to bring a challenge regarding its enactment in the past 18 years, any challenge was now untimely.

Furthermore, the Court found that the Sheriff was not entitled to High Public Official Immunity pursuant to Section 6111(i) and therefore declined to consider whether High Public Official Immunity is unconstitutional pursuant to Art 1, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as Plaintiffs had additionally argued.

Unfortunately, although 18 Pa.C.S. 6109(h) explicitly states that $1.50 of the fee paid is for purposes of the issuing authority sending the renewal notice, the Court declined to find that a civil cause of action exists for a Sheriff’s failure to issue renewal notices. Although the Plaintiffs brought a common law claim for breach of fiduciary duties, the Court found the Defendants were protected from that claim by the Political Tort Claims Subdivision Act.

While I am disappointed with certain determinations of the Court, I was pleased to see that many of my arguments and research were utilized by the Court in its decision and that it reached the proper conclusion regarding the confidentiality of LTCF applicant information.

If your confidential LTCF information was disclosed in some manner, whether via postcard, sign-in sheet or otherwise, contact us today so we can discuss your rights. You can reach us at info@princelaw.com or 888-313-0416.

 

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Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh Does Not Require References on LTCF Applications!

Consistent with a growing number of county sheriffs, Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh is not requiring license to carry firearms (LTCF) applicants to included references on the LTCF application. I reached out to Sheriff Welsh at the beginning of May about her position on the references, as a friend of mine was applying for a LTCF and did not know if he had to include them.

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh

Sheriff Welsh responded that she does not require the references and she believes the deputies at the front counter tell people that references are not required. Sheriff Welsh has a longstanding reputation for being rights oriented, so her response was no surprise. In 2013, the Chester County Sheriff’s Office raffled off an AR-15 to raising $20,000 for their K-9 unit.

As Chief Counsel Joshua Prince has long contended requiring references on the application is a violation of the confidentiality provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i), as merely calling the reference, even without disclosing that the applicant has applied for an LTCF, is a violation of the statutory protections, as the caller would be disclosing the “name” and “identity” of the individual, as a result of the application. This issue was addressed in our Class Action against the City of Philadelphia, which resulted in the City of Philadelphia agreeing not to require references. Last November, Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht also announced that he was no longer requiring LTCF applicants to submit references. More recently in January, it came to light that Perry County Sheriff Carl Nace does not require references on LTCF applications.

I would like to thank Sheriff Welsh, Sheriff Nace and Sheriff Weaknecht for following the letter of the law and not requiring references on their LTCF applications.

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Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law