California passed an anti-gun law that was purposefully designed to discourage plaintiffs and attorneys from filing lawsuits to challenge the state’s gun control laws which now has been exposed as an unconstitutional political stunt.
And, in fact, the federal judge overseeing the case cited California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) own words in highlighting just how “outrageous and objectionable” his own promoted anti-gun law truly is in terms of the U.S. Constitution, the Conservative Brief reported.
Now, rather ironically, Newsom is attempting to claim victory out of the clear and unmistakable defeat, as he has asserted that he actually wanted the law he supported to be struck down as a way to show that a controversial Texas anti-abortion law — which has been preliminarily upheld by the Supreme Court — that the California measure was supposedly modeled after is also unconstitutional.
Newsom’s hypocrisy exposed
According to Fox News, Gov. Newsom and the California legislature joined together to pass an anti-gun law known as SB 1327 that, like the anti-abortion SB 8 law in Texas it is purportedly modeled after, allows for private citizens to file lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, instead of abortion providers.
At issue here, however, is a provision within the California law that deals with post-case attorneys’ fees in cases challenging the state’s gun control laws and, for all intents and purposes, not only denies the right of successful plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees, as is guaranteed by federal law, but also puts plaintiffs and their attorneys on the hook for paying the state’s attorneys’ fees, which is largely prohibited by federal law.
That is central to the case of Miller v. Bonta and the 17-page ruling which ordered a permanent injunction against the California law that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez handed down on Monday. Interestingly enough, though, Benitez began his ruling by quoting Gov. Newsom’s many negative remarks about the Texas anti-abortion law and flipped them to apply directly to his own unconstitutional anti-gun law.
“‘It is cynical.’ ‘It is an abomination.’ ‘It is outrageous and objectionable.’ ‘There is no dispute that it raises serious constitutional questions.’ ‘It is an unprecedented attempt to thwart judicial review,'” the judge wrote. “Such are the Intervenor-Defendant Governor’s expressed views regarding the fee-shifting provisions of a Texas law (S.B. 8) and, at least by implication, of California’s Sec. 1021.11.”
Law directly conflicts with federal statutes and has “chilling effect” on First Amendment
Judge Benitez noted that Gov. Newsom — who intervened after California Attorney General Rob Bonta appropriately refused to defend the “blatantly unconstitutional” law — has repeatedly insisted that California’s law is “virtually identical” to the Texas law, but the judge pointed out California’s law “goes even further” than the Texas law.
He focused on California’s fee-shifting provision that essentially states that plaintiffs, even if they succeed in court, can never be deemed the “prevailing party,” and conversely, by default deems the state to always be the prevailing party and saddles both plaintiffs and their attorneys with the prospect of eventually being forced to cover the state’s attorneys’ fees — again, even if the plaintiffs win their case.
The judge noted the “chilling effect” that provision has on the First Amendment-protected right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances, not to mention that the provision directly conflicts with a federal statute that established how fee-shifting is supposed to work.
42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988 allows for the prevailing party in a suit to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and, further, except in cases of “frivolous” or meritless suits, bars the federal and state governments from being allowed to collect those fees when they prevail against a legal challenge.
Permanent injunction issued against unconstitutional law
As for the other purported similarities between the California and Texas law, which are both alleged to use the “private right of action” — citizen-led lawsuits instead of government enforcement — as a way to circumvent standard judicial review of the laws, Judge Benitez noted that while both laws “should be constitutionally scrutinized,” only California’s law impacts “a clearly enumerated constitutional right set forth in our nation’s founding documents.”
“Whether these distinctions are enough to save the Texas law fee-shifting provision from judicial scrutiny remains to be seen,” the judge wrote. “And although it would be tempting to comment on it, the Texas law is not before this Court for determination.”
In the end, Judge Benitez ruled the California law to be unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction to block the state from ever enforcing the fee-shifting provision. It seems likely that Gov. Newsom will now attempt to appeal this ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, which according to his absurd statement about the Texas law that revealed the whole thing to be a political stunt, is the presumptive outcome he wanted all along.