ILNews

Appeals court to hear Gary gun suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A Lake County negligence and public nuisance suit against gun manufacturers and distributors is making its way to the Indiana Court of Appeals for the second time.

On Monday morning, a panel of Judges John Sharpnack, Ezra Friedlander, and Patricia Riley will consider Smith and Wesson Corporation, et al. v. Town of Gary, et al., 45A05-0612-CV-754. The 10 a.m. arguments will be in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom.

Gary city officials sued in 1999 alleging that handgun manufacturers negligently designed and distributed the weapons and created a public nuisance by failing to take steps to prevent criminals from obtaining and misusing the products. Eleven manufacturers, one wholesaler, and five retailers were named as defendants.

The trial court dismissed the suit but was later reversed by the appellate courts, which remanded it to the trial level in late 2003. A new twist surfaced in 2005 after President George W. Bush signed the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to prevent firearm-makers and dealers from being held liable for crimes committed with their products.

A different trial judge ruled in October 2006 that the federal law is unconstitutional and denied the dismissal request, holding that the statute would deprive the city of its right of due process and violated the separation of powers.

"Our Supreme Court has long recognized laws that are applied retroactively and ... serve as a deprivation of our existing rights are particularly unsuited to a democracy such as ours," Lake Superior Judge Robert Pete wrote.Now, on appeal, the city argues the federal law is unconstitutional and doesn't provide a basis to dismiss the case, while the U.S. argues as an intervenor that the law is constitutional.
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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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