THE FLAWS IN JUDGE GARLAND’S REASONING
AN ANALYSIS OF THE CASE NRA VERSUS JANET RENO
We have been taking a close look at the case, National Rifle Association of America, Inc. vs. Reno, 216 F.3d 122, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 15906, 342 U.S. App. D.C. 231 (D.C. 2000). We have done so because an analysis of this Second Amendment case provides us with the clearest barometer of what the American people can expect if President Obama were to successfully position Judge Merrick Garland on the United States Supreme Court as a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Garland did not write the opinion. Judge Tatel did. But, Judge Garland agreed with both the decision and the reasoning of Judge Tatel. This means that Judge Garland could have penned the opinion himself. It is clear that Judge Garland does not have a high regard for the sanctity of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, coming away from an analysis of the Reno case, it becomes apparent to the perceptive reader that Judge Garland does not have any regard for the sanctity of the Second Amendment. So, if he were to gain a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the American people can begin ticking off the minutes of a clock. For, it would be merely a matter of time before Judge Garland, as the fifth critical vote on the liberal wing of the Court undermines and reverses the Justice Scalia not just on the seminal Second Amendment case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570; 128 S. Ct. 2783; 171 L. Ed. 2d 637; 2008 U.S. LEXIS 5268 (2008), but on Justice Scalia’s vast jurisprudence. That should provide conscientious Americans with some necessary food for thought. But, let’s get back to the Reno case.
In Part 4 of this multi-part series we began drilling down into the guts of the reasoning of Judges Tatel and Garland. A critical part of the analysis of this case has to do with the meaning of the phrase, ‘destroy all records’ in reference to gun transactions as that phrase appears in a U.S. Code Section, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) of the Brady Act. What does that phrase mean in the context of the Statute?
DESTROY ALL RECORDS OF THE SYSTEM MEANS JUST THAT: DESTROY THOSE RECORDS AT ONCE!
NRA argues that, in the context 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C), inclusion of the adverb, ‘immediately,’ to the phrase, ‘destroy all records,’ is redundant; that it is clear enough in the language of the Statute that Congress intended the NICS to function as a database of information to be supplied to the gun dealer immediately – which it was meant to do – and that, since the execution mandate is immediate – either to allow the transaction to proceed or not to proceed – it stands to reason that, after “the call,” destruction of the records must proceed immediately as well.
The Justice Department, though, argues that, nothing in the Federal Statute constrains the Department from holding onto gun transaction records for a period of time. In other words, the Justice Department says that the language of the Brady Act, specifically, the language of the Act, set forth in subsection 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C), does not require the Justice Department to destroy the records of the gun transaction immediately.
Judges Tatel and Garland agreed with the reasoning of the Justice Department. The Judges opined that the clause, “destroy all records of the system with respect to the call (other than the identifying number and the date the number was assigned) and all records of the system relating to the person or the transfer,” is ambiguous as to whether the Justice Department must destroy the records of the gun transaction immediately precisely because Congress could have added the word, ‘immediately,’ in 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C), and refrained from doing so. But is that reasoning sound? Definitely not!
The dissenting Judge, on the three Judge panel, Judge Sentelle, agreed with NRA, opining that Congress gave no inherent power to the Justice Department to exceed the power of Congress and that the Justice Department has done just that by promulgating a rule that the Department shall hold onto the records – if necessary, six months – after the date of transfer. Judge Sentelle correctly pointed out that: the Justice Department cannot seize for itself additional powers to decide how long it decides to retain records of a gun transfer.
Let’s take dissenting Judge Sentelle’s very reasonable point a step further. Suppose that, instead of use of the words, ‘destroy all records,’ 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) read: “keep all records of the system with respect to the call (other than the identifying number and the date the number was assigned) and all records of the system relating to the person or the transfer.” Now, suppose Janet Reno promulgated a rule allowing the Justice Department to keep all records for six months, or, for six weeks, or for six years, or, for that matter, for sixty years after which the Department would destroy all gun transaction records.
Would it be reasonable to infer that, because Congress did not add the word, ‘indefinitely,’ or the word, ‘forever,’ to the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ the Justice Department would be correct to devise a rule, mandating that the Department shall keep records for a specified period of time, however long or short that period of time might be because Congress did not set forth in the Statute that NICS records must be kept forever, that is to say, ‘indefinitely’? In other words, would it be reasonable to construe the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ as inherently ambiguous or vague because Congress excluded the adjective, ‘forever,’ or the adverb, ‘indefinitely,’ from the phrase, ‘keep all records’? Would the addition of the adjective word, ‘forever,’ or the adverb, ‘indefinitely,’ to the phrase ‘keep all records’ add something, indeed anything, necessary to the meaning of the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ in the context of the Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)? Does the phrase, ‘keep all records’ so much as suggest that Congress is leaving it up to the Justice Department to decide whether, in the promulgation of rules to give efficacy to the Statute, that the phrase, ‘keep all records’ is straightforward on its face without need for further explication through the addition of the word, ‘forever,’ or ‘indefinitely,’ to the phrase, ‘keep all records;’ and, further, that the Justice Department would be perfectly correct in interpreting Congressional intent, if the Justice Department promulgated a rule that required the Department to keep NICS records for some definite period – whatever that period of time is – but still a period of time that is less than “forever” or “indefinitely” if the language of 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) read, ‘keep all records’ (sans addition of the word, ‘forever,’ or addition of the word, ‘indefinitely’ to the Statute)? Is it not clear enough that the phrase, ‘keep all records’ means nothing more nor less than keep all records forever (or keep all records indefinitely)? If not, what more is to be gained through inclusion of the word, ‘forever,’ or the word, ‘indefinitely’ in the phrase, ‘keep all records?’
But, consistent with the reasoning of Judge Tatel and Judge Garland, it would be perfectly reasonable for the Justice Department to decide to keep NICS records for a specific period of time, less than indefinitely or forever, precisely because the Statute does not include the adverb, ‘indefinitely’ or the adjective, ‘forever,’ in the phrase, ‘keep all records.’ That is to say, the failure of Congress to add the word, ‘forever,’ or the word, ‘indefinitely,’ to the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ manifests ambiguity or vagueness. But, that idea is nonsensical. Moreover, it would be odd, to say the least, were Judges Tatel and Garland to insist that Janet Reno and her Justice Department, in their discretion, could decide to keep all NICS records for a limited period of time simply because Congress failed to assert, in the Statute, ‘keep all records forever’ or ‘keep all records indefinitely.’
Yet, for two Judges who obviously have reservations about the sanctity of the Second Amendment it is difficult to believe that they would interpret the Statute as permitting the Justice Department to hold onto firearms’ transaction records for a period of time, but not necessarily indefinitely, were Congress to draft 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) to read, ‘keep all records’ because, on the face of the Statute, ‘keep all records’ means that the Justice Department may ‘keep all records’ for howsoever long the Department wished to keep the records. But, consistent with the Court’s reasoning in the actual case, we would expect the Court to give to the Department of Justice the discretion to decide to keep NICS records for some period of time, less than forever, simply because Congress failed to include the obligatory word, ‘forever,’ or the word, ‘indefinitely,’ in the language of the Statute as ultimately enacted.
Had the Statutory section in question been drafted to read, ‘keep all records,’ instead of ‘destroy all records,’ Judges Tatel and Garland, would be compelled to argue – consistent with their reasoning in the actual decision – that inclusion of the word, ‘indefinitely,’ or inclusion of the word, ‘forever,’ in the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ is necessary to the meaning of the phrase in the context of the overall Statute because, without a qualifier, the Statute is inherently ambiguous. Thus, in the absence of inclusion of one or the other word, the Justice Department can in its judgment, reasonably, sensibly keep NICS records for a period of time, namely, a period of time however long or short, relatively speaking, but not, in any event, necessarily indefinitely or forever. This reasoning is patently absurd, and the conclusion drawn from such reasoning would certainly be reprehensible to the sensibilities of Judges Tatel. But the illogical reasoning and resultant outcome both follow from the reasoning of Judges Tatel and Garland in the Reno case, as actually decided.
Clearly, the addition of the adjective, ‘forever,’ or the addition of the adverb, ‘indefinitely,’ is unnecessary verbiage precisely because addition of the adverb or adjective to the phrase, ‘keep all records,’ adds nothing critical to the phrase’s meaning whether considered alone or in the context of the overall Statute. Thus, were Congress to have drafted legislation, requiring the Justice Department ‘to keep all records,’ that phrase can rationally, logically mean nothing more nor less than “keep all records (forever) or (indefinitely).” The addition of a qualifier is not necessary for an English speaker and for a rational thinker to have a perfectly clear understanding of the phrase’s meaning.
By the same token, adding the adverb, ‘immediately,’ to the verb, ‘destroy all records’ to the Statute, as the Statute was actually drafted, does not add anything critical to the meaning of it. Inclusion of the adverb, ‘immediately,’ is simply redundant. Therefore – and quite sensibly – Congress omitted the word from the final, Senate version of the Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c). But, the reasoning of Judges Tatel and Garland require inclusion of the word, and that is bizarre logic.
Perhaps Judge Garland, who has latched onto Judge Tatel’s decision and reasoning in the Reno case, is not such a keen, critical, methodical, meticulous, and logical thinker as Obama and the mainstream media would have the U.S. Senate and the American public believe him to be. Or, on the other hand, perhaps Judge Garland knows exactly what he is doing, and he manipulates both law and logic in a legal case to suit his needs as dictated by and consistent with his philosophy pertaining to the U.S. Constitution and, particularly, pertaining to the Bill of Rights.
In Part 6 of this multi-series article we look to further flaws in the reasoning of Judges Tatel and Garland, when the two United States Court of Appeals Judges for the District of Columbia Circuit as can be gleaned from an analysis of the majority opinion the Reno case – a case decision at odds with the import and purport of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.Copyright © 2015 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.