UNITED STATES vs. VOISINE
This is the first of a three part series article.
Anyone who keeps abreast of the U. S. Supreme Court knows that Justice Clarence Thomas broke a ten-year silence when he posed questions to counsel during oral argument on February 29, 2016 in the case United States vs. Voisine, No. 14-10154 (S. Ct. Dec. 17, 2015). The other seven Justices retained an austere demeanor. But they must surely have been surprised at Justice Thomas’ uncharacteristic lack of reticence. The Press, for its part, was noticeably, and understandably, thunderstruck.
One may speculate why Justice Thomas chose to take part in the questioning of counsel in this case, at this time. Not improbably, Justice Thomas did so, in part, out of deep respect for the memory of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia would have had much to say in Voisine as the case touches on two landmark Second Amendment cases: District of Columbia vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald vs. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010). “Heller holds that a law banning the possession of handguns in the home (or making their use in the home infeasible) violates the individual right to keep and bear arms secured by the Second Amendment.”
In the subsequent McDonald case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, “the Second Amendment creates individual rights that can be asserted against state and local governments.” Together, the two cases strengthen the Second Amendment more so than any previous holding of the high Court. The two cases constrain local, State and federal governments from whittling away at Americans’ fundamental right of the people to keep and bear arms in their individual capacity.
Justice Scalia wrote the Majority Opinion in Heller, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the Opinion for the Majority in McDonald, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy. Not surprisingly, the liberal wing of the Court, comprising Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer dissented, and they did so strenuously.
Now, contrary to common belief, the U.S. Supreme Court, does not have to accept and, indeed, does not accept every case that happens to come before it. No one can appeal an adverse decision to the U.S. Supreme Court as a matter of right. Indeed, the Supreme Court grants A Petitioner’s writ of certiorari in only a few cases in any given term. And, in the Court’s information sheet, presented to those who seek to have their case heard, the Court says clearly, even bluntly, that “review on writ of certiorari is not a matter of right but of judicial discretion.”
Generally, the high Court will agree to hear a case where there is disagreement and conflict among the various federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. This often takes years to develop. Even so, many cases that the high Court does agree to hear often involve arcane legal issues, very narrow in scope, that are difficult for the non-lawyer to grasp, and, so, quite understandably, difficult for anyone but a lawyer to appreciate. The Voisine case may, at first glance, appear to be just such a case. It isn’t.
To be sure there is a complex, arcane issue here, but there is also a straight-forward Second Amendment issue as well. The Second Amendment issue would have been given no consideration at all but for Justice Thomas’ interjection. Be thankful that Justice Thomas spoke up during oral argument in the Voisine case. This is not theatrics as presented by the mainstream media. Justice Thomas’ questions and remarks were precise, well-honed, to the point and surely took the U.S. Government off guard.
In the Opinion to be handed down in the coming months it is unlikely that the Court will not give the Second Amendment issue at least some consideration and will do so precisely because of, one, Justice Thomas’ questions to counsel for Respondent, U.S. Government, two, counsel’s responses to the Court, and, three, Justice Thomas’ comments. If no other Justice mentions the Second Amendment in the Majority’s Opinion, or in a concurring or dissenting Opinion, Justice Thomas most certainly will.
Now, a salient issue in Voisine does involve the meaning to be given a word phrase in one particular section of a lengthy federal Statute. Nonetheless, as we heretofore explained, the Voisine case is the first Supreme Court case to be heard by the high Court that does impact the Second Amendment. In fact, Petitioners did timely and properly raise a Second Amendment claim in their Briefs to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. And that claim was preserved; and that issue was ripe for review by the U.S. Supreme Court when it granted Petitioners’ Writ of Certiorari. Moreover, while the Second Amendment issue was set forth with particularity as a salient issue in Petitioners’ Brief, the Second Amendment claim was not set forth as an issue in the Government’s own Brief in Opposition to the Brief of Petitioners. And the Government, in its Brief in Opposition to the Brief of Petitioners, addressed Petitioners’ Second Amendment claim only perfunctorily, giving little thought to it, seemingly in deference to and happily therefor to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s treatment of it, for the First Circuit dismissed Petitioners’ Second Amendment claim outright.
In fact during oral argument before the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment was only mentioned twice and that occurred toward the end of oral argument when Justice Thomas brought the issue up. Justice Thomas did so, in part, as we said earlier, because Justice Scalia certainly would have done so had he lived. And, Justice Scalia would have done so for a very good reason, quite apart from and notwithstanding the otherwise cursory treatment of the Second Amendment issue by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Court. For Voisine is the first case to come before the Supreme Court that implicates the Second Amendment, however obliquely or tangentially, or seemingly cursorily since the high Court decided the McDonald case in 2010, over one-half decade ago.
Although the other Justices took great pains to avoid entertaining the Second Amendment issue in Voisine – preferring to address, alone, the meaning attached to a few words in one federal Statute – Justice Thomas would not let the matter rest, much to the satisfaction of Petitioners, who clearly sought to have their Second Amendment issue heard, and much to the chagrin of Respondent, the United States Government, that sought to keep the Second Amendment issue moot.
Moreover, by querying Government’s counsel on Petitioners’ Second Amendment claim, Justice Thomas may have been initiating a not so subtle payback to other Justices for a snubbing that both he and Justice Scalia suffered at the hands of those other Justices. For, both Justices Scalia and Thomas were more than a trifle perturbed that the majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Friedman vs. City of Highland Park, Illinois, 784 F.3d 406 (7th Cir. 2015). The Seventh Circuit in Friedman clearly manifested its contempt for the high Court’s holdings in Heller and McDonald. Justices Scalia and Thomas clearly wanted, and had expected, the high Court to grant certiorari in Friedman and, by failing to do so, Justices Scalia and Thomas expressed their righteous indignation by drafting a dissenting Opinion in Friedman.
Very rarely do Justices explain their reason for refusing to grant a writ of certiorari in a case. Even more rarely will one find a dissenting opinion written by a Justice, expressing disfavor for the failure of the majority of Justices to grant the writ in a case.
Surely, had the Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s writ of certiorari in Friedman, Justices Scalia and Thomas would have taken the Seventh Circuit to task for patently ignoring the Heller and McDonald holdings. The Arbalest Quarrel discusses the Friedman case at length in the article, titled, “A Court Of Law That Rejects U.S. Supreme Court Precedent Undermines The Rule Of Law And Undercuts The U.S. Constitution,” posted on December 14, 2015. For our discussion of Friedman and its importance to the Heller and McDonald cases, readers are encouraged to read our article.
In spirit Justice Scalia was certainly in attendance during oral argument in Voisine. Since the Supreme Court would not entertain the Friedman case which was a direct and audacious attack by a United States Circuit Court of Appeals on the clear and cogent holdings in Heller and McDonald, Justice Thomas, on behalf of Justice Scalia, clearly intended to raise and, so, did raise Petitioner’s Second Amendment issue in Voisine – a case that the U.S. Supreme Court did decide to entertain.
From the get-go it had been clear that no other Justice would weigh in on the Second Amendment implications of Voisine, and take the Government to task. Justice Thomas made certain that Justice Scalia’s disdain for a federal Government that cares not one whit for the sanctity of the Second Amendment would dare not go unchallenged.
Americans who understand and can appreciate the importance of our Bill of Rights as the foundation of a free Republic and who can, in particular, understand and appreciate the importance of the Second Amendment as a critical check on the accumulation of power by the Federal Government, and by improvident State governments as well, will do well to ponder the Nation’s incredible loss. Justice Scalia, together with Justice Thomas, made adamantly clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is an individual right unconnected to a person’s participation in a militia. The Heller decision rankles several Justices on the Supreme Court and many Globalists, both in this Country and outside it, as well, who are working quietly but incessantly and inexorably in the shadows, intent on undercutting America’s Bill of Rights, generally, and undermining America’s Second Amendment, particularly.
We know, without doubt, that President Obama – or her royal Majesty, Queen Hillary Rodham Clinton – seek to nominate to the highest Court of the Land, a person who would chomp at the bit to reverse Heller and McDonald on the ground that, for them, the cases are discordant. They are discordant to these judges and to powerful, ruthless individuals because they happen to strengthen rather than weaken America’s Bill of Rights.
In Part 2 of this Article, we will deal in depth, with the legal issues in Voisine and you will come to understand, one, why the high Court, apart from Justice Thomas, does not wish to deal with the impact that a negative decision in Voisine would have on the Second Amendment and, two, how it is that a specific question posed by Justice Thomas to counsel for the U.S. Government elicited from counsel a most remarkable, illuminating, and, in fact, frightening comment. You will come to see why a negative holding in Voisine does have negative implications for our Second Amendment.
So it is that the mainstream media would much rather keep the dire implications of Voisine in the shadows. We, on the other hand, intend to bring those implications out, for all to see, into the light of day. In so doing, we trust we will help keep the memory of Justice Scalia alive, and in keeping Justice Scalia’s memory alive, preserve, as well, the holdings in Heller and McDonald that bespeak Justice Scalia’s devotion to the import of the Second Amendment. Ever mindful, then, are we of those who are hell-bent in destroying it.Copyright © 2015 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.