Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
The Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law.
- The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, was a challenge to a 108-year-old New York law that required individuals to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public.
- In the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the law violated “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” which is protected by the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. “The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’ We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need…And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self defense,” Thomas wrote.
- The 6-3 decision saw the Court’s entire conservative bloc, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, join Thomas in the majority opinion. All three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, dissented.
- In his dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Kagan, Breyer wrote that the Second Amendment permits states to “take account of the serious problems posed by gun violence.” “Many States have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence…by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The Court today severely burdens States’ efforts to do so,” Breyer continued.
- Meanwhile, Congress is on the cusp of passing significant gun control legislation for the first time in decades. The Senate recently passed a bill that, among other things, incentivizes states to enact red flag laws to restrict individuals who are deemed “dangerous” from obtaining firearms, strengthens background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old, and provides funding for mental health services in schools. The bill has received bipartisan support in the Senate.
The January 6th Committee held two public hearings this week.
- At the hearing on Tuesday, the Committee outlined the pressure that former President Donald Trump, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and others put on state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The hearing featured live testimony from Republican politicians, including Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling. Bowers said that he refused to overturn the election results, as Trump and Giuliani requested, because it would violate his oath to the Constitution. “It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired — of my most basic foundational beliefs. And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being,” Bowers testified. Fulton County, Georgia, election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss also testified about the threats of violence that she, her mother, and her grandmother endured after Trump and Giuliani accused Moss and her mother, by name, of election fraud.
- Thursday’s hearing centered on the pressure that Trump and others put on Department of Justice leadership to investigate Trump’s allegations of election fraud, and, subsequently, subvert the election results. The hearing featured live testimony from former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Steven Engel. Donoghue testified that Trump told him, “Just say the election was corrupt, and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen.”
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