Federal Judge: California’s Fee-Shifting Law ‘Abhorrent’

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California’s “fee shifting” scheme is in trouble from a federal judge. Flag Guns Gun Control iStock 884191010

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez said a major portion of a law adopted earlier this year in California, which essentially could penalize gun rights organizations, individual plaintiffs and their attorneys, is “abhorrent,” according to the California Globe.

The provision, Section 1021.11, is written to hold plaintiffs liable for court costs if they do not completely win in challenges to state gun laws. He was poised to issue an injunction.

As noted by the Globe, Judge Benitez observed, “When people feel they can’t go to the courts, if that process is taken away from them, what’s left. The result is either civil disobedience or violence. This is not about firearms regulations. This is about a constitutional right.”

The case is called Miller v. Bonta, and it was brought by the Second Amendment Foundation, San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., John W. Dillon, Dillon Law Group, P.C., George M. Lee, Gunfighter Tactical, LLC, John Phillips, PWGG, L.P., Ryan Peterson and James Miller. They contend this law is designed to have a chilling effect on legal action against California’s increasingly restrictive firearms statutes, a position with which Judge Benitez concurred, according to the Associated Press.

A similar case, South Bay Rod & Gun Club, Inc. v. Bonta was brought by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms—SAF’s sister organization—California Rifle & Pistol Association and several other plaintiffs. Both cases are in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The actions are against California AB 1594, which was adopted in response to a Texas statute, Senate Bill 8, which deals with abortion in the Lone Star State. The law infuriated California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Democrat allies in the Legislature in Sacramento.

According to the California Globe, “AB 1594, is essentially a gun control version of Texas’ Senate Bill 8, also known as the heartbeat law.”

Newsom intervened with his own attorney when Attorney General Rob Bonta essentially stepped away from defending the California law, which Bonta had already asserted was unconstitutional. The Attorney General’s office advised the governor “that it did not intend to defend the validity” of the contested section of the law.

When attorneys for SAF and its partners responded in a brief, they noted, “By intervening here, the Governor has thus offered further proof that Section 1021.11 is an act of political retribution that he intends to follow through on, at the expense of California citizens’ fundamental rights, if S.B. 8 is upheld. Meanwhile, he has failed to offer any colorable argument that Section 1021.11 is constitutional. It is not. The Court should declare Section 1021.11 unconstitutional and permanently enjoin all Defendants from enforcing it.”

SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said this unusual development suggests the state’s position is in trouble.

“Bonta (was) in something of an embarrassing bind,” he said in a statement to the media. “He can’t defend a law that is nearly a mirror image of a Texas statute he has already declared is unconstitutional.”

Earlier, Judge Benitez had issued an eight-page order rejecting an effort by the state to moot the SAF lawsuit.

California is just one battleground in a war on the Second Amendment. As noted by the Washington Examiner, other states are considering “other ways to sidestep the framework established in the (Bruen) case.”

That seems to be at the center of this fight; states with restrictive gun controls maintained over generations, essentially choking the exercise of Second Amendment-protected rights and they don’t want to let go, according to gun rights advocates. The Examiner story quoted SAF’s Gottlieb, who told the newspaper, “They know they’re getting laws struck down, so they’re trying to pass laws to get around it, and their problem is, all these laws they’re passing are more restrictive.”

Gottlieb seems to have it pegged. In Illinois, lawmakers are already pushing new gun controls, which CBS News incorrectly called “gun safety legislation.”

In Oregon, a circuit court judge has thrown a major speed bump into the path of Measure 114, which has drawn four federal lawsuits and the state action, which is now providing the roadblock.

In Washington, there is a legal challenge against a magazine ban that took effect July 1, and against part of Initiative 1639 that bans sales of modern semi-auto rifles to young adults.

New Jersey lawmakers scrambled to rewrite that state’s laws following the Bruen ruling from June.

New York already rewrote its gun law to maneuver around the Bruen ruling, and SAF and others have already sued the state as a result.

The battlefield has clearly shifted from Capitol Hill and the legislatures to the courts—at least in part—and that is the direction it appears destined to follow, probably all the way back to the Supreme Court. Inevitably, the high court will have to determine the full parameters of the Second Amendment.

There has been a signal from the court in the Bruen ruling about how that might go. Justice Clarence Thomas made it clear when he observed “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

About Dave Workman

Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.

Dave Workman

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waiting for scotus to rule a right has no regulation other than requirement that you respect others rights,


SCROTUS will disappoint.


Progressives always seem to find ways to fail the ‘shoe on the other foot’ logic test. This law is targeted against a particular class of people. If the roles were reversed and a legislature passed a bill reversing fees on transgendered inmates who unsuccessfully sue the California Department of Corrections to get a sex change the progressives would flip out. Loser pays must be universal in application. It is legitimate if it is equally applied. It is the whole equal protection thing. A thing progressives hate.


Trey Gowdy said this before Clarence Thomas. But it’s nice to know CT was listening. And willing to repeat it.


No wonder the Calipornia gun owners are calling him Saint Benitez.


“Inevitably, the high court will have to determine the full parameters of the Second Amendment.”.

And hopefully they will. But if they do not, the people must do it.



progressives/leftists are scrambling to work around the bruen decision, throwing everything up against the wall to see if something sticks.
laws need to be changed to make those who enact these unconstitutional laws/rules personally/financially liable, not the taxpayers. that is the only way this is going to stop, no absolute or qualified immunity.


The kind of obstinacy and defiance displayed by restrictive states in reaction to Bruen, is reminiscent of what slave states displayed, leading up to the Civil War. While I don’t believe the gun rights (2ndA) issue alone could lead to such a major domestic conflict, when added to the open border issue, as well as profligate spending by congress, it seems clear, hard times are ahead.