Covington VA –-(Ammoland.com)- In the last Virginia Citizens Defense League ( VCDL ) Update we told you about VCDL filing for an injunction against Fredericksburg VA, to try and prevent them from holding what we believe to be a clearly illegal gun buyback.
In that update we noted that the case was lost without ever discussing the merits of the case because the court found that neither Virginia Citizens Defense League nor Pat Webb had standing to file the suit and that we should have included the person providing the funding as a party.
I misspoke on the last part – we didn’t need to sue the funding party, the issue was solely standing.
Because the entire field of law governing causes of action, standing, and jurisdiction is such a detail-oriented area of law, a number of our attorney members emailed us with additional questions. EM John Pierce, also an attorney, provided the following detailed information to try and answer those questions and explain both the court’s ruling and its implication in greater detail.
EM John Pierce:
I guess I will start by noting that the issue of whether or not the additional party should have been added to the case was raised by the City but was not a part of the judge’s actual decision, which was based solely upon standing.
This may be very confusing to many. Civil procedure (the requirements for filing a proper suit) is one of the more complex areas of law and this is especially true where a declaratory judgment is being sought. In our case, we were seeking a temporary injunction, a declaratory judgment, and a permanent injunction. There are specific statutes that govern each of these action however, these statutes do not, in and of themselves, give rise to a cause of action that the court will recognize.
To quote from the controlling case, Charlottesville Area Fitness Club Operators Ass’n v. Albemarle Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 285 Va. 87, 737 S.E.2d 1 (Va., 2013),
“The declaratory judgment acts do not create or change any substantive rights, or bring into being or modify any relationships, or alter the character of controversies, which are the subject of judicial power. … The reason for these rules is that the courts are not constituted, and the declaratory judgment statute was not intended to vest them with authority, to render advisory opinions, to decide moot questions or to answer inquiries which are merely speculative. … We have previously held that the declaratory judgment statutes may not be used to attempt a third-party challenge to a governmental action when such a challenge is not otherwise authorized by statute.””
In our case, we were arguing that the harm to VCDL, EM Patt Webb, and her business was more than merely speculative and that substantive rights would be impacted by allowing Fredericksburg to hold the buy back in violation of state law. Furthermore, we were arguing that the text of §15.2-915.5 should be read to grant a private right of action both to those who would be involved in the local legislative process as well as FFLs who would have an interest in the process of bidding on firearms thus put up for auction.
In agreeing with the City, the judge effectively held that no one organization, person, or FFL, even one who might regularly bid on firearms auctions held by cities, would have sufficient standing to challenge a violation of § 15.2-915.5 because it does not give rise to a private cause of action in any circumstance.
To put that in perspective, because § 15.2-915.5 does not have the standing and fee-shifting provision that is contained in § 15.2-915 (which does give rise to a private cause of action), any locality may blatantly violate the statute and there is nothing anyone can do about it. They are effectively able to spit in the eye of the legislature.
As Philip noted yesterday, it is imperative to get the same ‘teeth‘ in the gun buyback statute that we have in the general preemption statute. This holding will assist us in that by providing a concrete example of how easily the will of the people, as expressed through the legislature, can be subverted by a locality.
Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit: www.vcdl.org