October 2008

Downrange: 10/08

The Bill For Heller: $3.5 Million

I’m not suggesting you do what I’ve done, but I thought I’d tell you what I did anyway.

I sent a $20 check to Robert A. Levy of the Cato Institute, one of the attorneys who won the Heller Supreme Court decision, along with a note thanking his team for their efforts.

Gun Tests

Todd Woodard

My contribution to the effort was a small, miniscule drop in the bucket to help retire the $3.5 million legal bill that helped win District of Columbia v. Heller, which affirmed our Second Amendment rights earlier this year. In a motion and memorandum asking for their legal fees to be paid by the District, the attorneys for our side said that they had achieved "one of the most profound and important victories available under our system of justice."

Our team was made up of Alexandria attorneys Alan Gura and Clark M. Neily III, plus Robert A. Levy of the Cato Institute, "who also personally bore all the expenses of the litigation," according to the document filed with the court.

It was a David vs. Goliath clash, with the attorneys on the District’s side far outnumbering Levy’s resources in lawyers, legal research, and government funding. I hope that they win the request for fees, but I wanted to chip in anyway.

Alan Gura asked for $1,850,354; Neily $900,446. Levy’s claim was for $663,498. Overall, the claim for seven attorneys’ time totaled $3,559,097. Among the expenses and costs claim totaling $13,215, the largest sums were for payments to attorneys Stephen Halbrook, a Fairfax, Va., attorney who has long been associated with court cases over Second Amendment rights ($3,250), and Don Kates ($4,400).

The challengers to District of Columbia gun laws—including a flat ban on private possession of pistols in the home or anywhere other than a business—lost in District Court, but won in the D.C. Circuit and in the Supreme Court. The Justices’ 5-4 decision, announced on June 26, the final day of the last term, declared for the first time in history that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to have a functioning gun for use in self-defense in the home.

In the Supreme Court, the local gun ban was challenged by a government security guard who lives in Washington, Dick Anthony Heller. After the Court ruled, and the D.C. government set up a new regime of licensing of pistols, Heller filed a new lawsuit in federal court challenging the new approach as too restrictive. (He has since had his pistol registered under the new regulations.) Attorney Halbrook is the lead counsel in that case.

Two other District residents joined in the lawsuit (Heller, et al., v. District of Columbia, et al., District Court docket 08-1289), now pending before District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina.

I sent my $20 check to Levy at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW., Washington DC 20001-5403. I hope he uses it to buy a round of coffee for the team—it looks like they’ll need it.