Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
The Supreme Court temporarily reinstated the Biden administration’s regulations of “ghost guns.”
- Ghost guns are homemade firearms that can be made with a 3D printer or assembled from a kit. Since they are not manufactured or sold by a licensed entity, the weapons lack serial numbers, which leaves them unregistered and untraceable. In 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ordered manufacturers and sellers of ghost gun kits and parts to obtain licenses, conduct background searches of buyers, and label the parts with serial numbers.
- The sellers and manufacturers then brought a lawsuit challenging the policy in court. In June, a federal district court judge in Texas ruled that “the ATF…[exceeded] its statutory jurisdiction” by promulgating this rule, and issued a nationwide injunction barring the ATF from enforcing it. After the Fifth Circuit declined to freeze the lower court’s order, the Biden administration brought the issue to the Supreme Court. In a brief, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote that the district court order was “irreparably harming the public and the government by reopening the floodgates to the tide of untraceable ghost guns flowing into our Nation’s communities.”
- By a vote of 5-4, the justices reinstated the ATF policy for now, while the legal challenges continue. In the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kaga, Amy Coney Barrett, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh would have allowed the lower court’s ruling that prohibited enforcement of the rule to remain in effect. Next, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case in September.
All four former police officers who were criminally charged for the 2020 killing of George Floyd have now been sentenced in their state and federal cases.
- Former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were all convicted of (or pled guilty to) state and federal charges for their involvement in the killing.
- In 2021, a state jury found Chauvin guilty of second and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. He was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison. Chauvin also pled guilty to federal charges of violating the constitutional rights of Floyd and a 14-year-old boy, in an unrelated case, and received a 21-year sentence. His sentences are being served concurrently. A Minnesota appeals court recently upheld Chauvin’s conviction and rejected his request for a new trial. He reportedly plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s recent declination of his appeal.
- Lane pled guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for holding down Floyd’s legs. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Lane was also sentenced to two-and-a-half years for his federal conviction of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights. The sentences are being served concurrently.
- Kueng pled guilty to a state manslaughter charge for kneeling on Floyd’s torso. He received a three-and-a-half-year sentence. Kueng was also sentenced to three years for his federal conviction of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights. Like the others, he is serving his sentences concurrently.
- This week, Thao received the final sentence related to the killing. He was sentenced to nearly five years following a state conviction of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for holding back a crowd of bystanders who attempted to aid Floyd. Thao will serve that sentence concurrently with his three-and-a-half-year sentence for his federal conviction of violating Floyd’s constitutional rights. Last week, a panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that conviction.
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