A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Wednesday, just hours after hearing oral argument, dismissed an appeal filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a federal lawsuit brought by four federally-licensed Massachusetts firearms retailers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry. The lawsuit challenging Healey’s 2016 “Enforcement Notice” will go forward unimpeded. In 2018, a federal district court judge in Worcester had denied Healey’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit finding that the plaintiffs had asserted valid federal due process claims.
“We are very pleased that the judges saw the total lack of merit in the appeal and, in a rare move, dismissed it the very same day they heard oral arguments, Attorney General Healey’s frivolous attempt to prevent part of this suit from moving ahead based on state law claims that were not even being made,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
The lawsuit states that Healey overstepped her legal authority and deprived the retailers of their due process protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The action seeks declaratory relief and a permanent injunction enjoining enforcement.
“The actions of Attorney General Healey’s office in 2016 were unconstitutional, leaving firearms retailers in Massachusetts unable to determine the meaning or scope of the Enforcement Notice and subsequent explanations,” Keane explained. “Because criminal penalties can result due to her unilateral reinterpretation of a state statute done without administrative process or input from affected parties, her office exceeded its lawful authority and retailers were deprived of their due process protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Attorney General Healey’s unconstitutional action has left us no other option than to seek relief from the courts.”
Representing NSSF and the retailers are the Boston-based law firm of Kenney and Sams, P.C., and Michael Sullivan of the Ashcroft Law Firm, who is a former United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and former Acting Director, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.