January 25, 2008
Nutter in legal wonderland
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, whose fresh approach seemed like a welcome change from the corruption-riddled administration of John Street, is not off to a great start if his plan to enforce illegal and unconstitutional laws is any indication:
Nutter: Enforce Phila.'s gun lawsFirst of all, the headline is misleading, but more on that later. The report continues:
Mayor Nutter yesterday said he would enforce new city gun-control laws even without state authorization to do so - setting up a possible legal and political showdown between the state and the new mayor.It is well settled that Philadelphia does not have the legal authority to enforce gun laws that contravene state law. It is called "preemption." The Philadelphia laws are a legal nullity and unconstitutional. Any Philadelphia police officer who attempts to enforce them could be sued. Moreover, all police officers in Pennsylvania are sworn to uphold state law, so the nonsense that Nutter threatens would only cause absolute chaos for Philadelphia (assuming he follows through).
I love this response by Sebastian at Snowflakes in Hell:
Go ahead Mayor Nutter. Enforce them against me. Please. I could use the money I'll make from the giant lawsuit I promise I'll slap the city with. Pennsylvania needs to reconsider its preemption statue if Mayor Nutter is serious about crossing this Rubicon. Not to weaken it, but to impose penalties on cities and local municipalities who violate it. We have the power to do this in the legislature, and I really hope that City Council does not really want to bring this issue to a head.And here's Jeff Soyer, who corrects the Inquirer on a point of law:
Once again, it's "punish the law abiding gun owners" rather than the criminals and if that means violating the Pennsylvania Constitution or state law, so be it.As I say, Jeff is a more thorough legal researcher than the Inquirer. Note that he said "state law."
State preemption of local gun laws was not just a "1996 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling" as the Inquirer claims, because the Supreme court simply followed existing state law -- Pennsylvania 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6120(a) -- a 1994 statute which provides as follows:
§ 6120. Limitation on municipal regulation of firearms and ammunition.Not that state law matters to Nutter any more than the legal details matter to the Inquirer. The story continues, as if this is just the way things are supposed to be done in our fair city:
"If these bills pass and if I sign them, then I expect to enforce them," Nutter said. "If you believe we can have a safer city by putting these measures in place, I think as good public servants we are compelled to take some type of action in the face of no relief coming from anywhere else."A "test of a new Supreme Court"? To test what? Whether it will throw out a state law specifically preempting local laws because a local law is written to defy the state law intended to preempt it?
On an anti-gun law professor's say-so?
Castille may be a "former Philadelphia district attorney who promised to depoliticize the court" but I think if he goes along with Philadelphia's Alice in Wonderland legal strategy, he'll be doing precisely the opposite.
I'm already disappointed in Mayor Nutter, and he hasn't been mayor for three weeks!
posted by Eric on 01.25.08 at 09:03 PM
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