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Hatfield v. Lynch

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 20, 2016

LORETTA LYNCH, in her capacity as Attorney General of the United States, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Loretta Lynch's, in her official capacity as the Attorney General of the United States, Motion (Doc. 13) to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed a timely Response (Doc. 17) and the Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. 21). Reply briefs are discouraged under Local Rule 7.1(c) and should only be filed only in exceptional circumstances. Further, a party is required to state the exceptional circumstance in its brief. Defendant's reply brief does not state an exceptional circumstance and therefore, is stricken for failure to comply with Local Rule 7.1(c).

         1. Background.

         The Plaintiff is a convicted felon having pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, one count of making false statements with regard to benefit claims under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act in violation of Title 18, United States Code, § 1001 on February 28, 1992. See Untied States v. Hatfield, 91-cr-30093-WLB, SDIL. As such, plaintiff is an individual convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than one year.

         18 U.S.C. § 922(g) states that it shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year to possess a firearm or ammunition. Plaintiff brings this action to challenge the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) arguing that if he had been convicted in state court, he could seek relief in order to reinstate his right to possess a firearm. He further argues that federal law provides a means to restore civil rights, but that lack of funding restricts the Department of Justice from processing any such petitions except for corporations.

         Therefore, plaintiff's complaint alleges that he has a fundamental right to “keep and bear arms in the home for self-defense” and that as an individual with a, “relatively minor non-violent felony, nearly 25 years ago, who has not had any trouble with the law in the intervening 25 years, and who would be eligible to go through a process to restore his civil right, and thereafter to lawfully possess arms, were he convicted in state court” should have a federal means to restore his civil rights. As such, plaintiff is seeking this court to declare 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff. (Doc. 1).

         Defendant moves to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on two grounds. First, defendant argues that the plaintiff lacks standing and as such, this Court lacks jurisdiction. Second, defendant argues that categorical bans on felony possession of firearms are not barred by the Second Amendment and 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) is constitutional as-applied to the plaintiff as it relates to a compelling governmental interest.

         2. Motion to Dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(1) - Standing.

         The doctrine of standing is a component of the Constitution's restriction of federal courts' jurisdiction to adjudicate actual cases or controversies. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); see U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. “In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or particular issues.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). Standing contains three elements:

First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact - an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized . . . and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. . . . Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of - the injury has to be fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not . . . the result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court. . . .. Third, it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61 (internal citations, quotations and footnotes omitted); accord Sierra Club v. Franklin County Power of Ill., LLC, 546 F.3d 918, 925 (7th Cir. 2008).

         The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing the elements of standing. See Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130. “Since [the elements of standing] are not mere pleading requirements but rather an indispensable part of the plaintiff's case, each element must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of litigation.” Id. In ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. See Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197.

         However, “[w]here standing is challenged as a factual matter, the plaintiff bears the burden of supporting the allegations necessary for standing with ‘competent proof.'” Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 76 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 1996). “Competent proof” requires a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that standing exists. Id. “[S]tanding goes to the jurisdiction of a federal court to hear a particular case, it must exist at the commencement of the suit.” Perry v. Vill. of Arlington Heights, 186 F.3d 826, 829-830 (7th Cir. 1999).

         Defendant argues that the Plaintiff lacks standing because, “invalidating § 922(g)(1) is unlikely to redress his alleged injury (the inability to possess a firearm) because it would still be unlawful for the Plaintiff to ...

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