Judge to halt provision making California gun suits costlier

Dec 15, 2022, 11:06 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2022, 2:49 pm
FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters at Del Mar Fairgrounds on Feb. 18, 2022, in...

FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters at Del Mar Fairgrounds on Feb. 18, 2022, in Del Mar, Calif. On Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez said he will issue an injunction to block part of a new state law that critics say would make it nearly impossible to challenge the state's gun laws in court. Newsom has championed the law and defended it in court. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, File)

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday said he will block a provision in a new California law to take effect next year that gun advocates argued was designed to hinder anyone from challenging the state’s famously restrictive gun laws.

U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez said he would issue the injunction requested by gun clubs as soon as possible to halt the provision that would force people who file lawsuits over California’s gun laws to pay the government’s legal fees if they lose. The judge announced his plans during a federal hearing in San Diego.

The ruling will block only the provision and not the entire law, which bans the sale of some assault weapons and allows private citizens to sue people who violate those rules. The law is modeled after a Texas measure passed in 2021 that aimed to enforce that state’s ban on most abortions by empowering private citizens to enforce the ban by filing lawsuits in civil court.

Benitez said the fee provision would have a “chilling effect” on the public’s right to challenge the government in court because people would not want to take the risk of being liable for expensive legal fees.

“I can’t think of anything more tyrannical,” Benitez said.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom convinced the state Legislature to pass the law after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to stay in effect. Newsom has said he believes the Texas law to be unconstitutional but if the Supreme Court allows it to stand, then California will take the same idea and use it for their purposes.

In addition to banning the sale of some assault weapons, the law also will prohibit parts that can be used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50-caliber rifles.

In court on Friday, Newsom’s lawyers noted California does not plan to enforce the fee provision unless the Texas law is upheld.

Benitez, who was appointed to the court by former Republican President George W. Bush, dismissed that argument.

“We’re not in a kindergarten sandbox. It’s not about, ‘Mommy he did this to me so I should be able to do this to him,'” Benitez said.

The judge asked the government’s attorney, Tom Willis, if he would be willing to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs who asked for the injunction to the provision. Willis said he didn’t understand the question.

Benitez shot back that he was wise to not answer because no attorney would want to take on such a risk of personally paying the other side’s legal fees if they lose.

Gun advocates said the law, while not in effect, is already causing attorneys to think twice about taking on such cases.

Joshua Dale, one of the lawyers representing a San Diego area gun club that sued over the provision, said it has placed attorneys like him in an “ethical dilemma” over whether to serve their clients and risk losing.

“I’m terrified of this law,” he told the court. “It would be absolutely devastating to pay the state’s attorney fees. I’ve got kids. I’ve got a mortgage. I could never pay $50,000 or $100,000 without emptying my 401(k) account.”

Lawyers for gun clubs said once the provision is blocked, effectively ensuring they do not have to pay the government’s legal expenses if they lose, they are considering challenging the entire law after it goes into effect.

___

Beam reported from Sacramento.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
13 hours ago
Nathan Chasing Horse stands in court. Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in North Las Vegas, Nev. Nathan Chasing...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in 2018 rape in PNW

Canadian police confirmed Tuesday they are pursuing a criminal case against a former "Dances With Wolves" actor who was arrested last week and charged in Nevada with sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls.
13 hours ago
FILE - In this image from video released and partially redacted by the city of Memphis, Tenn., Tyre...
Associated Press

Officer never told Tyre Nichols why he stopped him

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — The officer who pulled Tyre Nichols from his car before police fatally beat him never explained why he was being stopped, newly released documents show, and emerging reports from Memphis residents suggest that was commonplace. Documents released Tuesday by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission blast the conduct of […]
2 days ago
Men harvest avocados at an orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26...
Associated Press

Mexican avocados shipped for Super Bowl named in complaint

MEXICO CITY (AP) — One year after the Super Bowl season was marred by a ban on Mexican avocado shipments, another threat has emerged: An environmental complaint that avocado growers are destroying forests that provide critical habitat for monarch butterflies and other creatures. The complaint, filed with the trilateral Commission for Environmental Cooperation, part of […]
2 days ago
People and rescue teams search for people in destroyed buildings in Elbistan, southern Turkey, Wedn...
Associated Press

How long can people survive in the rubble of an earthquake?

How long can trapped people survive in the rubble of an earthquake? Up to a week or more, experts say, but it depends on their injuries, how they are trapped and weather conditions. Search teams from around the world have joined local emergency personnel in Turkey and Syria to look for victims from this week’s […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for March delivery rose $1.33 to $78.47 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude for April delivery rose $1.40 to $85.09 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for March delivery was unchanged at $2.46 a gallon. March heating oil fell 1 cent to $2.89 a gallon. March natural gas fell 18 cents to $2.40 per […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Judge to halt provision making California gun suits costlier