Concealed Carry

Disaster in D.C.: ‘May Issue’ Carry Rules Are Back

U.S. Court of Appeals writ

The Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals has undone years of litigation, finding a temporarily assigned visiting judge should not have heard the case of Wrenn v. District of Columbia regarding the right of citizens to carry handguns.

An order entered by a judge without jurisdiction is “null,” the court's decision said.
An order entered by a judge without jurisdiction is “null,” the court’s decision said.
The judge had ruled unconstitutional the District’s requirement that applicants for a D.C. carry license provide “good reason.” The D.C. Circuit has vacated the order, meaning the District’s tough “may issue” standard is back in place.

From the decision:  Although the parties fully briefed the case on the merits, we will not reach the substantive issues raised in their original submissions, as we must dispose of the matter on jurisdictional grounds. The controlling fact in this case is the identity of the judge who decided it in the district court – The Honorable Senior United States District Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., of the Northern District of New York. The difficulty in this case is evident from the office of the deciding judge. Judge Scullin is a Judge of the Northern District of New York, not of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Under the Constitution and the statutes, the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints a judge to the district court of a particular district, where he exercises the jurisdiction of the court. It is possible for a district judge, including a senior judge, to lawfully adjudicate matters in another district. However, in order for a judge to exercise this judicial authority in a district located outside the circuit of his home district, the judge must be “designated and assigned by the Chief Justice….” From page 4 of the decision: The error in this case is quite understandable. The calendar committee of the district court assigned the matter to Judge Scullin because it deemed the case to be related to another case over which Judge Scullin presided. The difficulty is, while the earlier case was within the Chief Justice’s designation, the present one is not. Although we are satisfied the statutes clearly determine on their face that Judge Scullin had no authority to decide this matter, there is also clear precedent compelling that result. From page 5: We realize that we are undoing the work of litigation to date, but we have no choice. As the Supreme Court noted in Frad, an order entered by a judge without jurisdiction is “null.” Of course in Frad, the Supreme Court caused the undoing of litigation which had gone far beyond the stage we address today. We have no choice but to vacate the order entered, as it was beyond the jurisdiction of the issuing judge. So ordered. See our previous coverage of the decision here.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (26)

  1. So I’m sure every hood rat and unarmed teen dindu nuffin is going to be deterred from carrying a handgun by this return to idiocy. I’m sure the crime stats for Death City will reflect the wisdom of these liberal morons.

  2. Yep, let’s just continue the murders and mayhem in a Democrat governed city. Being a gun free city is a magnet for illegal guns, but these mentally ill leftists will never understand what chaos they are perpetuating.More proof that liberalism is a mental disease, incurable!

  3. We really have no say in anything anymore. Voting is an utter joke and waste of my damn good time…time that should be spent having a nice long spot on the toilet!!

  4. Them pilgrims in DC need to carry open or concealed whenever they want. They need to disregard traitor politicians and traitor judges.

  5. This is not the NFL; however, a ruling on the field stands unless overturned by an “appeal” by one of the “litigants”. I do not disagree with the jurisdictional dispute; however, the process is flawed when a Federal Judge in good standing rendered a final decision and is overturned on a technicality. I think there should at least be a mistrial but to overturn a declaratory judgement without either review or a new trial is wrongful resolution. It may be correct but it is not fair.

    1. Did you miss where it said, “We realize that we are undoing the work of litigation to date, but we have no choice. As the Supreme Court noted in Frad, an order entered by a judge without jurisdiction is “null.””

      The equivalent is you getting arrested by a New York State Trooper in Virginia. Try as he might, he has no jurisdiction; the principle is the exact same. Should the judges be making new case law just because it’s a case we happen to have a vested interest in? No.

    2. Rick,
      Just to beat this poor horse,

      Did you miss where I said, “It may be correct but it is not fair.”? I am not sure what you are saying to me or about my comment but the law is what it is. I am not suggesting that there is any technical impropriety. I am saying that on philosophical grounds, “good reason” is way too arbitrary. It practically bans right to carry depending on who applies for a CHL and who awards them.

      I don’t have a dog in the hunt because I live in Texas but I hate to see erosion of gun rights anywhere in our country. The right to carry a handgun is inherent in the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment nowhere specifically says the government(s) can prevent owning or bearing arms. I am guessing D.C. has the same status as do the states as in states rights and the Tenth Amendment where the states have all the powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to it by the states or the people. That would necessarily make this jurisdictional mistake a states’ rights issue so the argument is between the states e.g. New York vs. D.C. The SC determined that D.C. has jurisdiction so, correctly, nullified the decision on those grounds. Poor horse.

    3. If the decision is null, then any appeal associated with it has not been addressed. Of course there should be a completion of the original litigation which was not (because of error) finished. This would not be new litigation but a completion through correction of the original case. Vested interest is immaterial.

    4. “As the Supreme Court noted in Frad, an order entered by a judge without jurisdiction is “null.”””

      But then the SCOTUS must ALSO rule that an unconstitutional law is also null – which per the constitution it is. This means ALL laws that “control” the keeping and bearing (carrying) of arms (guns) is NULL and VOID.

    5. The Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals has a history of screwing up. They like to write law more then simply doing their job and passing judgement on it. This latest fiasco is so typical of these liberal jerks!

  6. DC is one of the most dysfunctional cities in America, ranking right up there with Chicago and Baltimore. The government is corrupt and incompetent, and the citizens openly vote for people like Marian Barry even after he’s caught on camera blowing coke with a prostitute while the mayor. After he left that office the people in his home district voted him onto the city council. While I feel bad for the people who live there, most (not all) get the government they deserve.

    This is a procedural decision and can be refiled to be heard by a resident judge.

    1. As the official government of D.C. is actually Congress, I agree, it is indeed a corrupt government.
      Home rule was repealed some time ago, so now Congress rules the city.

      Still, this was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, the court that has jurisdiction can now hear the case, which is the proper thing to do.

    2. @ Wzrd1,

      Wrong; try cracking a book so you don’t get things so backwards.

      Despite your comments, Congress has ALWAYS ruled “the city”. The Home Rule Act has never been repealed as it was enacted by Congress as recently as 1973 and remains in effect to this day as the reason D.C. is even allowed to have a Mayor.

      The Home Rule is a relatively new Act which Congress created to actually provide D.C. residents MORE local control over its own governance by giving it authority to have its own City Council and Mayor to pass local laws. The Act was written in such a manner to ensure Congress still maintains ultimate review authority should they not agree with local ordinances created by the local D.C. government.

    3. @ Wzrd1, (Part 2 to your wrongness)

      You indicate that the case was heard in the wrong court. Actually the case was in-fact heard in the proper Court’s jurisdiction.

      The problem was not the jurisdiction or location of the Court that heard the case, but rather the error was caused by the calendar committee within the Court itself that screwed up by assigning a “visiting judge” to this specific case within their Court, without first double-checking whether the judge had proper appointment authority to actually oversee the case in their Circuit.

      Federal Courts often loan judges from other Districts to fill in for sick judges, heavy case load balancing, or extended unfilled vacancies. It happens so often that it is easy to overlook that a judge may be assigned in a manner that is violating cross Circuit jurisdiction as opposed to District jurisdictions. This was the committee’s fault, not the judge’s.

    4. Why is a judge from the ‘wrong district’ (which seems to be the central point of contention) ever picked in the first place? And why wouldn’t a judge not realize the error, let alone the committee? According to the article judges are not assigned from other districts – at least from the NY district in this case.1

    5. @ buurga,

      I’ll try my best to answer your questions, but please understand that how our courts work can be quite complex and appear to not make sense unless you work in them on a regular bases. Even then, Circuit re-assignment rules are allowed to vary across the Nation adding to the complexity of the matter. In other words, don’t try to apply common sense as legal decisions don’t always stem from common thinking.

      You asked: “Why is a judge from the ‘wrong district’ (which seems to be the central point of contention) ever picked in the first place?”

      Answer: First understand there really is no such thing as a “wrong district” when it comes to judicial re-assignments. District judges normally presides over a specific District to which they are assigned, but are often requested and temporarily appointed to hear cases outside their own District in order to assist with balancing caseloads (as I’ve already mentioned). A judge’s temporary reassignment to help preside over cases in other Districts is lawfully binding as long as it is first authorized in writing by that Circuit’s Chief Justice or Executive in writing. Read below my answer to your second question which should finish answering why the judge was “ever picked in the first place”.

      You asked: “And why wouldn’t a judge not realize the error, let alone the committee?”

      Answer: Originally this judge had been lawfully appointed by the Chief Justice in writing to temporarily assist hearing cases in an out-of-circuit assignment. After a judge completes their temporary assignment and returns to their respective District, they must still go back and hear any of those previous out-of-circuit cases which they presided over should they ever later become subject to new legal proceedings, appeals, etc. A new written appointment letter by a Chief Justice is not required since these cases are considered ongoing rather than new. Such appeared to be the situation in this particular case and so the Chief Justice did not feel the need to pen a new appointment letter for the out-of-circuit judge to re-hear the matter. However, after his second ruling, the D.C. Circuit decided the case was not a related continuation, but rather an entirely new case and thus decided it did require a new letter appointing that same judge to hear it. Essentially this judge’s second ruling was thrown out by the D.C. Circuit over their opinion that a technicality over jurisdiction had occurred and not the actual merits of the case.

      You stated: “According to the article judges are not assigned from other districts – at least from the NY district in this case.”

      Response: I fail to see anything in this article that indicates what you wrote that “judges are not assigned from other districts “. It may be possible you read something out of context.

      Otherwise I hope my responses have helped you better understand how this occurred.

  7. This is one of a recent, train of decisions that I have observed over the most recent years. I began practicing law some 48 years ago and had been interested in the law, studying it some time before. In the days of yore, some 40 plus years ago, decisions were rendered by judges who were interested in certainty of the law so that all the people might regulate their behavior with a sure knowledge of a just and certain standard of conduct. Social policy might have been a consideration but not a determining factor. Court decisions were reasoned and argument and decision were based upon precedent and the constitution, not social policy,
    Some twenty plus years ago we began to see a change in judicial decision making. Judge were being appointed based upon political party affiliation and not qualifications, wisdom, knowledge of the law or character. In my personal opinion, the caliber of our judges declined steeply and their ability to judge was a casualty of their decline.
    I saw judges change from men or women of character and accomplishment to those of correct political affiliation and reliability, regardless of intelligence, wisdom, maturity or ability to decide matters fairly and according to a long established standard.
    It seems to me that social policy is a poor substitute for reason, wisdom certainty and historical precedent. Decisions on social policy lack certainty and are subject to the current whims of political change. Business and people have no way to predict what manner of behavior will be supported by the courts and what will be excoriated. This is where we find ourselves now and the most recent decisions of the ilk discussed here are the result.

  8. This is not a defeat at all, much less a disaster. The judge’s reasoning was in no way overturned. The law is what the law is, and in fact the DC Circuit took great pains to make sure that nobody mistook its decision as changing the law on the merits..

    This is simply a procedural mistake by the court itself, in having assigned the case to a judge who could not legally decide the case. The DC Circuit decision makes the district court adminstrators look like idiots, but no way does it allow the DC government to ignore the law as well analyzed.

    PLEASE, amateurs, stop making grave assertions about matters on which you clearly are not qualified to comment.

  9. While I agree that a decision on the merits would have been a damaging blow to our firearm related rights; this proceedural argument has far reaching potiential to damage the full range of rights. If decisions taken by substitute judges can be so easily swept aside in one case; it can happen in any case. Substitute judges are a common feature of our justice system. Pray you are never tried by a substitue judge if you are on trial for someting that is of broad and contentious public interest.

    Our laws and justice system are meant to reach finality, not temporary rulings that can be swept aside by a second judge with a different opinion where no appeal was sought from a higher court.

  10. More proof that voters need to put differences aside and even if you’re not happy with the candidate, get off your butt and vote for whomever is running against the Dem – the next president will likely pick at least one and possibly three supreme court justices

    The REAL disaster for the constitution and this country will be if those new justices are picked by Hillary or similar “progressive” (Marxist)

    If you don’t feel good about voting Republican, at least vote NOT Democrat

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more and, frankly, I don’t think we hear this enough–Here’s the only thing Freedom Loving Independent Americans (or what Obama called “those folks clinging to their bibles & guns” as the guy views us as a bunch of Neanderthals to be sure) need to understand: With the Dems it’s with absolute 100% Certitude that they WILL come after our Second Amendment Rights followed by subsequent assaults on the remaining Bill of Rights and Constitution @large. Why so, because they tell as as much every-single-day and I am more than confident that they will act if given the opportunity namely, more and more Democrats elected in the House, Senate, POTUS and perhaps, more importantly yet ironically not given enough thought, the JUDICIAL Branch whereby BHO has taken the last 7 Years to stack the Courts with Anti-2A Gun Rights Stooges, I mean Judges…The undeniable truth is that the next POTUS will likely get the opportunity to appoint 2-3 SOCOTUS Justices which with the sound of their “leftist gavel” can rule “against the law” what just yesterday was understood to be innate, God-Given Rights re-affirmed by Our Ingenious Founding Fathers via our Glorious in the U.S. Constitution–translation, they BAN GUNS most likely beginning once again with “Military Assault Guns” as they ignorantly designate followed by everything up to and including ‘Little Ralphie’s” Red Ryder BB Gun (thank God for “The Christmas Story” as it’s traditional Americana and a Christmas Holiday Classic featuring “Guns” (albeit BB but we’ll take what we can get from leftists Hollywood)as the focal-point to boot!) which is outright “UN-American!”

      Absolutely VOTE for Republican Candidates at every level of Office of course including the next POTUS!

      Merry Christmas to All & God Bless America!

  11. This ruling points out the erroneous thinking of many that our right of self defense in the home, announced in the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia vs. Heller is secure. It is not. It can be overturned as easily as this case was overturned. Our only hope is to elect candidates who support the Constitution. We can do it quite handily, if we will get off our butts come election day and vote.

    1. “Our only hope is to elect candidates who support the Constitution.”

      I find it highly ironic (not a word I use too often) that you post that in response to the legal system actually following the Constitution.

  12. No, a disaster would have been having it thrown out on its merits, not on procedural grounds like this. We’re a nation of laws and in this case it wasn’t followed. Next time….

Leave a Reply to Eric Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.