Congressman Walter B. Jones Statement on the Floor U.S. House of Representatives

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law

On June 18, 2007, Congressman Walter Jones addressed the U.S. House of Representatives about the Ramos and Compean case.  He explained the issues raised in the amicus brief we recently filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Congressman Jones explained  how the agents were convicted of a crime which Congress never enacted into law.  The Congressman has asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the matter and to ensure that justice be done. Read More

U.S. v. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean Amicus Brief for Congressman Walter Jones, et al. 18 U.S.C. section 924(c)

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit supporting the appeal of Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean.  Counts four and five of the indictment charge the two with “Discharge of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence,” under 18 U.S.C. section 924(c), which the Supreme Court has ruled is only a sentencing factor, not one of the three elements — “using,” “carrying,” or “possessing” a firearm.  See Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002). Read More

Strict Construction of Federal Criminal Laws U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief Watson v. United States

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Firearms Law, U. S. Supreme Court

On behalf of Gun Owners Foundation and the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, we filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Watson v. United States.  This brief asks the Court to overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and to re-establish the common law rule of strict construction of criminal statutes.  In this case, an undercover agent sought to buy drugs from Watson, and offered a firearm as part of the purchase price.  The federal government indicted Watson for not only the drug sale, but also for the “use” of a firearm in connection with a federal drug trafficking crime, which would greatly increase the sentence if convicted.  Clearly, in the normal sense of the word, receiving a gun is not “using” a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime, but the Fifth Circuit interpreted the word “use” broadly to encompass receipt.  Had the rule of strict construction been applied to this case, and “use” interpreted in its normal sense, Mr. Watson would not be faced with a mandatory additional minimum prison sentence of five years under 18 U.S.C. section 924(c).  Our amicus brief also asks the Court to reject the modern “rule of lenity” that has proved to be no substitute for strict construction.  Strict construction of federal criminal law is necessary to preserve constitutional separation of powers, as well as principles of federalism.  Our amicus brief illustrates how allowing police and prosecutors to go beyond the words of the statute to define a crime opens up opportunities for abuse. Read More

Free Speech Coalition Critique of House Efforts to Restrict Grassroots Lobbying

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Nonprofit Law

With the House of Representatives soon to vote on the lobbying reform bill, the Campaign Legal Center has issued a memo arguing that grassroots restrictions are clearly constitutional under existing law.  We prepared this analysis for the Free Speech Coalition explaining why such restrictions are unconstitutional, and why the analysis of the Campaign Legal Center is flawed.

Link to analysis

Michael New v. Donald H. Rumsfeld — Reply Brief of Petitioner

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

We filed in the United States Supreme Court a reply to the Government’s brief in opposition to former Army Specialist Michel G. New’s petition for review of his January 1995 court-martial conviction (for violation of an order requiring him to wear the United Nations uniform prescribed for deployment to a U.N. operation in Macedonia).

After we had filed the Petition for Certiorari in November 2006, the Government filed a waiver with the Court, presumably indicating thereby that it considered New’s petition to be without merit.  In December 2006, however, the Court requested the Government to file a response which it did on March 20, 2007 with a brief in opposition. Read More

Wisconsin Right to Life — Amicus Brief

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Wisconsin Right to Life case.  The brief asks the Court to reconsider its prior holdings in the McConnell and Buckley cases, and to strike down the Congressional ban on “electioneering communications.”  (We had previously filed an amicus brief in support of Wisconsin Right to Life when the case came before the Court last year.) Read More

The Right of the People of Maryland to Keep and Bear Arms

Michael Harless Constitutional Law

Maryland Shall Issue, Inc. commissioned our firm to prepare an analysis of a 13-year-old Opinion of the Maryland Attorney General currently being used in the Maryland General Assembly to support SB 43, the so-called “assault weapons” ban.  Our analysis — “The Right of the People of Maryland to Keep and Bear Arms:  A Refutation of a 1994 Opinion of the Maryland Attorney General” — was presented to the Maryland General Assembly at a hearing on February 27, 2007.  The views presented in our paper are consistent with the subsequently-issued opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the case of Parker v. District of Columbia, issued March 9, 2007. Read More

Free Speech Coalition Constitutional Analysis of Restrictions on Grassroots Lobbying Contained in Section 220 of S.1

Michael Harless Constitutional Law

The Campaign Legal Center recently issued a memorandum concluding that pending Senate restrictions on grassroots lobbying in Senate Bill 1 were clearly constitutional under existing law.  We could not disagree more.  Working with Free Speech Coalition Legal Co-Counsel Mark Weinberg of Weinberg & Jacobs, LLP (http://wjlaw.com),we drafted the attached constitutional analysis to set the record straight. Read More

Michael G. New v. Donald H. Rumsfeld — SG ordered to file response

Michael Harless Constitutional Law

On December 21, 2006, William K. Suter, Clerk of the Supreme Court, wrote to the Solicitor General informing the General that, although his office had waived a right to respond to the Michael New’s petition for certiorari, the Court has directed the Clerk to request that the Solicitor General file a response to the petition on or before January 22, 2007. (This deadline was subsequently was extended to February 21, 2007.)  According to the rules of the Court, within ten days after the filing of the response, the Court will decide whether New’s petition for review will be granted or denied. Read More

Michael G. New v. Donald H. Rumsfeld — Petition for Certiorari

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, we filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review by the United States Supreme Court of the dismissal of Michael G. New’s collateral attack on his January 1996 court-martial.  (Former Army Specialist New was convicted of disobedience of an allegedly lawful order for failure to wear the United Nations uniform prescribed for his unit’s deployment as part of a U.N. commanded operation in Macedonia.) Read More

Gun Owners Foundation Amicus Brief in United States v. Stanko

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

Mr. Rudolph Stanko was convicted of possession of a firearm and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(1), which prohibits any person from possessing a firearm or ammunition if that person has been convicted of certain types of crimes punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.  According to the statutory definition, the predicate crime cannot be any federal or state offense “pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices.” Read More

State of Wyoming v. BATF District Court Oral Argument

Michael Harless Appearances, Constitutional Law, U. S. District Court, State of Wyoming

On October 6, 2006, our attorneys had the opportunity to present oral argument in support of the Gun Owners Foundation amicus brief in Wyoming v. BATF.  At stake in this litigation before the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming is the statutory and constitutional right of the state of Wyoming to conduct its own criminal background check for purchasers of firearms in Wyoming.  The Gun Owners Foundation brief sided with the state in opposition to the BATF’s insistence that Wyoming’s background check did not meet BATF’s “national” standards. Read More

State of Wyoming v. BATF Amicus Curiae Brief for Gun Owners Foundation in District Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. District Court, State of Wyoming

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief for Gun Owners Foundation in the U.S. District Court for the State of Wyoming on behalf of the State of Wyoming, and the Wyoming Attorney General, Patrick J. Crank.

The brief was submitted in opposition to a BATF ruling that a Wyomingconcealed carry permit based on a Montana criminal background check is not sufficient to allow an FFL dealer to transfer a firearm without obtaining a current federal National Instant Criminal Background Check.  BATF objected to a provision in Wyoming law that permits an expungement of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence so that it cannot be reviewed by the Wyoming Attorney General in conducting a criminal background check before issuing a concealed carry permit, while allowing the record to be maintained for use for other purposes. Read More

Michael New Petition for Rehearing En Banc

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

Today, the legal team for Michael New filed a petition for rehearing en banc of New’s collateral attack on his court-martial conviction for disobedience of a “lawful” order.  In his petition, New documents the unmistakable fact that the three-judge panel decision — affirming the district court’s dismissal of his complaint that he was denied due process of law at his court-martial — departed completely from the standard of review established in the District of Columbia Circuit for nearly 40 years. Read More

Religious Liberty Not to Have a Social Security Number (Idaho Court of Appeals)

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Idaho Court of Appeals

On March 17, 2006, we filed a supplemental reply brief bringing to the attention of the Idaho Court of Appeals the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Gonzales v. UDV, in which Chief Justice John Roberts — writing for a unanimous court — construed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to provide very favorable protection to individual liberty of religious belief and practice.  In this brief we urged the Idaho Court of Appeals to give this same favorable interpretation to the Idaho Religious Freedom Restoration Act and reverse the trial court’s decision denying Mr. Lewis’s conscientious objection to having to disclose to the Idaho authorities the SSN that had been assigned to him in his youth and that he had later, because of religious conviction, disassociated himself therefrom. Read More

Michael New Oral Argument

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

On February 16 at 9:30AM, Herb Titus is scheduled for oral argument on behalf of Michael New before Circuit Judges Randolph and Garland and Senior Judge Williams, urging the appellate panel to reverse U.S. District Judge Friedman’s order dismissing Mr. New’s claim that he was unconstitutionally convicted of disobedience of a lawful order. Central to Mr. New’s constitutional claims is the contention that he was deprived of his liberty without due process of law by a court-martial proceeding (a) in which the prosecution was relieved of its statutory duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the order to wear the U.N. uniform was a “lawful” order and (b) in which the defendant was denied any opportunity to show that the order violated both his statutory and constitutional rights on the ground that his claims raised “political questions” outside the jurisdiction of the court-martial. William J. Olson and John S. Miles of the firm and Henry L. Hamilton are with Mr. Titus on the briefs. Read More

Birthright Citizenship Study Re-Released: “Children Born in the United States to Aliens Should Not, by Constitutional Right, Be U.S. Citizens”

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Publications

A legal analysis of Birthright Citizenship, written by Bill Olson, Herb Titus and Alan Woll, was re-released by U.S. Border Control today. The paper, “Children Born in the United States to Aliens Should Not, by Constitutional Right, Be U.S. Citizens” was originally published in January 2001,and then updated in March 2003. The House of Representatives is expected to be considering legislation on this topic in the near future. Read More

Michael New Reply Brief

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

On November 23, 2005, Michael New’s legal team filed a hard-hitting reply brief to the United States government’s continuing attempt to avoid New’s claim that his 1996 court-martial conviction for disobedience of a “lawful” order was unconstitutional. For over 10 years now, the government has sought to dismiss New’s claim that a 1995 order to wear a U.N. uniform and submit to the operational control of a foreign military officer was a political question. In his reply brief, New argues convincingly that the cases upon which the government has relied are totally irrelevant, having to do with orders issued to American soliders to serve under American, not foreign, command. Read More

Citizens United, Citizens United Foundation, Amicus Brief in Wisconsin Right to Life Case

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed an Amicus Brief for Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC. The brief asks the Supreme Court to overturn a decision of a Special Three Judge District Court in the District of Columbia. The brief argues that the lower court misread the Supreme Court’s decision in McConnell v. FEC resolving a “facial” challenge to the constitutionality of the “electioneering communications” provisions of the McCain-Feingold law (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) to preclude future “as applied” challenges. The brief emphasizes that the judicial power to decide constitutional questions is limited to the facts as presented in an individual case or controversy and that no judicial ruling may constitutionally be imposed upon a person or entity not a party to the case. At stake, then, in this case is the reach of judicial power and the due process right of every person to have his day in court. Read More

FSDEF Amicus Brief in United Seniors Association v. Social Security Administration

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

We filed an Amicus Brief for the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund in support of United Seniors Association’s petition for rehearing of the decision to fine them over $500,000 for using the words “Social Security” on carrier envelopes. The FSDEF brief submits that the panel misapplied the deferential agency review standard of Chevron and failed to apply the relevant Due Process standards governing statutory vagueness. Read More

Michael New Initial Brief

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

We filed, on behalf of Michael New, an Initial Brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This brief presents for decision whether the district court improperly dismissed — for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted — each of the four counts of New’s Second Amended Complaint, collaterally attacking his January 25, 1996 court-martial conviction and bad conduct discharge for having violated an allegedly lawful order contrary to Article 92(2) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Read More

McCreary (Ten Commandments) U.S. Supreme Court Case Amicus Brief Filed

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of :
Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund,
Joyce Meyer Ministries,
Committee to Protect the Family Foundation,
Lincoln Institute for Research and Education,
American Heritage Party,
Public Advocate of the United States,
Radio Liberty, and
Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Inc.
in the pending Ten Commandments case, McCreary County, Kentucky v.ACLU of Kentucky. Read More