Awad v. Ziriax, Amicus Brief in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma

Today our firm filed an amicus brief on behalf of U.S. Border Control, U.S. Border Control Foundation, The Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, and Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund in the case of Muneer Awad v. Paul Ziriax, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Read More

Committee to Recall Robert Menendez v. Wells Amicus Brief on Behalf of 12 Organizations

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, New Jersey Supreme Court

On May 10, 2010, on behalf of 12 organizations, the firm filed an Amicus Brief in the Supreme Court of New Jersey supporting the efforts of the plaintiff, the Committee to Recall Robert Menendez From the Office of U.S. Senator.

On November 2, 1993, by an overwhelming majority, the people of New Jersey enacted an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution which allows the people to recall their representatives to the U.S. Congress, and directing the state legislature to promulgate laws to provide for recall elections, which the legislature did in May, 1995. Read More

Doe v. Reed U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief for Free Speech Defense and Education Fund and Free Speech Coalition

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today our firm filed an amicus brief for the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, the Free Speech Coalition, and 28 other nonprofit and for profit organizations in the case of Doe v. Reed, in the United States Supreme Court.

The brief argues that, contrary to what the state of Washington claims,freedom of speech principles do indeed apply to the Washington state referendum petition process. Moreover, anonymity for referendum petition signers in that state legislative process is protected from state abridgment by the14th amendment as an individual privilege and immunity of United States citizenship secured under the republican form of government guarantee of Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. Read More

David R. Olofson — Petition for Certiorari filed

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed a Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, on behalf of Army Reservist David Olofson, urging the Court to grant Certiorari to review the Seventh Circuit decision affirming Olofson’s conviction. The Petition was docketed on August 31, 2009. Amicus briefs are due by September 30, 2009.

Olofson was sentenced to prison for 30 months for transferring a “machine gun” — which really was a lawful-to-own, semi-automatic AR-15 rifle which occasionally manifested a “hammer-follow” malfunction, resulting in short bursts followed by jamming. Read More

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Amicus Brief in Support of Appellant U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of appellant Citizens United on a supplemental question. The amicus brief urges that Citizens United’s challenge to federal regulation of electioneering communications be sustained, and the decisions in Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce andMcConnell v. FEC, as applied to BCRA section 203, be overruled since they endorse an erroneous view of the freedom of speech that conflicts with Citizens United’s freedom of the press. Contrary to the assumptions in Austin and McConnell, the freedom of the press does not confer a special privilege upon the institutional press, but is enjoyed by all the people. Austin’s and McConnell’s narrow reading of the press freedom is not only contrary to history, but at odds with new realities of journalism. Read More

McDonald v. City of Chicago NRA v. City of Chicago Amicus Brief in Support of Petitions for a Writ of Certiorari U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Gun Owners of America, Inc. and Gun Owners Foundation in support of petitioners’ request for a writ of certiorari. These cases involve challenges to City of Chicago and Village of Oak Park bans on handguns. At issue is whether the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms against the States. The amicus brief urges that the petitions present an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by the Supreme Court. It also argues that the Chicago and Oak Park handgun bans abridge one of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States — the right to keep and bear arms — in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Read More

National Taxpayers Union v Social Security Administration Amicus Brief in Support of Petitioner U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioner National Taxpayers Union. At issue in this case is the constitutionality of a statute — section 1140 of the Social Security Act — which was misused to uphold significant penalties against National Taxpayers Union for engaging in core political speech, entitled to the strongest First Amendment protection possible. The amicus brief submits that the court of appeals erred by failing to apply correctly certain precedents of the Supreme Court, and that the decision of the court of appeals, if allowed to stand, would impede the free exercise of core political speech by persons and organizations critical of government policies and programs. Read More

Supreme Court Decides Wyeth Case

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Health Law

The Supreme Court ruled by a 6 to 3 vote that approval of a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not prohibit a state court jury from finding a pharmaceutical manufacturer liable for personal injury caused by the inadequacy of an FDA-approved warning label on that drug. We had filed an amicus brief urging this view for The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). Justice Thomas’ Concurring Opinion reflected the views set out in the TSCL amicus brief that the Tenth Amendment secures to the states and the people common law rights that a federal agency, like the FDA, cannot trespass upon with impunity.
See TSCL Press Release. Read More

Olofson Case — Oral Argument

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

On January 22, 2009, Herb Titus presented oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in support of David Olofson’s appeal from having been wrongfully convicted of transfering a machinegun.  At the heart of the Olofson appeal, Titus contended, is that the Government pressed a wrongful definition of a machinegun in order to secure Olofson’s conviction.  According to the government’s definition, Olofson’s malfunctioning semiautomatic rifle functioned as a machinegun because it fired more than one shot at the single pull of a trigger, even though it jammed before the trigger was released or the ammunition in the magazine was exhausted.  The government’s position, Titus argued, is contrary to fact, contrary to law, and in conflict with Supreme Court Seventh Circuit precedent.  Indeed, according to the briefs filed by the firm, Olofson’s prosecutor adopted a definition of a machinegun inconsistent with prior ATF rulings and guidelines. Read More

Akins v. United States, 11th Circuit Another Brief Contesting ATF’s Definition of a “Machinegun”

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

On November 26, 2008, the firm filed an amicus brief on behalf of Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) and Gun Owners of America (GOA) in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of Bill Akins.  Akins is the inventor of the Akins Accelerator — a patented replacement stock of a semiautomatic firearm that through controlled “bump firing” increases the rate of fire, after an initial trigger pull, by multiple functions of the trigger controlled by the shooter’s well-placed trigger finger. Read More

Gun Owners Foundation Amicus Brief Filed in United States v. Hayes U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

On September 26, 2008, we filed on behalf of Gun Owners Foundation an amicus brief in United States v. Hayes.  The GOF brief urged the Supreme Court to affirm a Fourth Circuit court of appeals ruling that, as a matter of statutory interpretation, an individual does not lose the right to own a gun unless the prosecutor in the misdemeanor case  proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the misdemeanor event was, in fact, a domestic one. Read More

U.S. v. Ramos/Compean Amicus Brief in Support of Petition for Rehearing U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

We filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of two former Border Patrol agents’ Petitions for Rehearing. This brief emphasized areas where the Fifth Circuit panel’s decision was inconsistent with the law as set forth in our earlier brief filed with the court on May 25, 2007.

Our amicus brief was filed on behalf of Congressmen Walter B. Jones (R-NC), Virgil H. Goode, Jr. (R-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX), Gun Owners Foundation, U.S. Border Control Foundation, U.S. Border Control, and Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund. Read More

Wyeth v. Levine Amicus Brief Filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Behalf of The Senior Citizens League

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Health Law, U. S. Supreme Court

On behalf of The Senior Citizens League (“TSCL”), we filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court in Wyeth v. Levine (Supreme Court Docket No. 06-1249) on behalf of the respondent, Diana Levine. The issue in this case is whether approval of a drug and its labeling by the Food and Drug Administration preempts state tort liability when the label as approved does not adequately warn of the dangers of certain forms of administration of a drug. Read More

District of Columbia, et. al., v. Dick Anthony Heller Amicus Brief for Gun Owners of America, Inc., et. al.

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court supporting the respondent in the D.C. gun ban case, District of Columbia, et. al., v. Dick Anthony Heller, No. 07-290. The brief was filed on behalf of Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners Foundation, Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., Virginia Citizens Defense League, Gun Owners of California, Inc., Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, and Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund. Read More

Abigail Alliance Case — Amicus Brief Filed In U.S. Supreme Court for The Seniors Citizen League

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Health Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court in the case of Abigail Alliance v. VonEschenbach, Commissioner of the FDA.  The U.S. Supreme Court had been asked by an alliance of terminally ill patients with no conventional medical alternatives to overturn an en banc decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit which allows the FDA to bar these patients’ access to certain drugs, even after the FDA has approved them for Phase II testing. Read More

Ramos/Compean Amicus Oral Argument

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard oral argument today in the Ramos/Compean appeal.  Our local counsel, Mark Brewer, was in attendance and sat at counsel table with the attorneys for appellants Ramos and Compean.

The three-judge panel consisted of Judges E. Grady Jolly, Patrick E. Higgenbotham, and Edward C. Prado.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Stelmach argued on behalf of the United States, Robert Baskett appeared for defendant Compean, andDavid Botsford appeared for defendant Ramos. Read More

State of Wyoming v. BATF Amicus Brief for Gun Owners Foundation in the Tenth Circuit

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae for Gun Owners Foundation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of the State of Wyoming and Wyoming Attorney General Patrick J. Crank.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (“BATF”) argued that Wyoming  Stat. Ann. § 7-13-1502(k), which provides for the expungement with regards to restoring firearms rights to a person convicted of the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (“MCDV”), (a) is insufficient as an exemption from the NICS background check and (b) does not authorize the person eligible to purchase a firearm. Read More

Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) Statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing to Examine the Prosecution of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law

Congressman Walter Jones submitted a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging the Committee to use its power and influence to persuade the President to pardon Ramos and Compean, two border patrol agents wrongfully convicted of a crime that does not exist.  In support of his plea, Mr. Jones cited the amicus brief filed by this firm on his behalf and others in support of the agents’ appeal in the Fifth Circuit.  At the heart of Jones’ appeal to the Committee was the contention in our amicus brief “that no person should stand charged with, and convicted of, a crime that was never defined by Congress.  Indeed, in our system of separation of powers, the rule of law demands that prosecutors enforce the law as Congress has defined it, not as the prosecution would like it to be.” Read More

Congressman Walter B. Jones Statement on the Floor U.S. House of Representatives

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law

On June 18, 2007, Congressman Walter Jones addressed the U.S. House of Representatives about the Ramos and Compean case.  He explained the issues raised in the amicus brief we recently filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Congressman Jones explained  how the agents were convicted of a crime which Congress never enacted into law.  The Congressman has asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the matter and to ensure that justice be done. Read More

U.S. v. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean Amicus Brief for Congressman Walter Jones, et al. 18 U.S.C. section 924(c)

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit supporting the appeal of Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean.  Counts four and five of the indictment charge the two with “Discharge of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence,” under 18 U.S.C. section 924(c), which the Supreme Court has ruled is only a sentencing factor, not one of the three elements — “using,” “carrying,” or “possessing” a firearm.  See Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002). Read More

Strict Construction of Federal Criminal Laws U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief Watson v. United States

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

On behalf of Gun Owners Foundation and the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, we filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Watson v. United States.  This brief asks the Court to overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and to re-establish the common law rule of strict construction of criminal statutes.  In this case, an undercover agent sought to buy drugs from Watson, and offered a firearm as part of the purchase price.  The federal government indicted Watson for not only the drug sale, but also for the “use” of a firearm in connection with a federal drug trafficking crime, which would greatly increase the sentence if convicted.  Clearly, in the normal sense of the word, receiving a gun is not “using” a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime, but the Fifth Circuit interpreted the word “use” broadly to encompass receipt.  Had the rule of strict construction been applied to this case, and “use” interpreted in its normal sense, Mr. Watson would not be faced with a mandatory additional minimum prison sentence of five years under 18 U.S.C. section 924(c).  Our amicus brief also asks the Court to reject the modern “rule of lenity” that has proved to be no substitute for strict construction.  Strict construction of federal criminal law is necessary to preserve constitutional separation of powers, as well as principles of federalism.  Our amicus brief illustrates how allowing police and prosecutors to go beyond the words of the statute to define a crime opens up opportunities for abuse. Read More

Free Speech Coalition Critique of House Efforts to Restrict Grassroots Lobbying

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law

With the House of Representatives soon to vote on the lobbying reform bill, the Campaign Legal Center has issued a memo arguing that grassroots restrictions are clearly constitutional under existing law.  We prepared this analysis for the Free Speech Coalition explaining why such restrictions are unconstitutional, and why the analysis of the Campaign Legal Center is flawed.

Link to analysis

Michael New v. Donald H. Rumsfeld — Reply Brief of Petitioner

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

We filed in the United States Supreme Court a reply to the Government’s brief in opposition to former Army Specialist Michel G. New’s petition for review of his January 1995 court-martial conviction (for violation of an order requiring him to wear the United Nations uniform prescribed for deployment to a U.N. operation in Macedonia).

After we had filed the Petition for Certiorari in November 2006, the Government filed a waiver with the Court, presumably indicating thereby that it considered New’s petition to be without merit.  In December 2006, however, the Court requested the Government to file a response which it did on March 20, 2007 with a brief in opposition. Read More