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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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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