Eugene Volokh blogs about an interesting case in Illinois. It is a suit by a couple whose house was invaded in a warrantless raide by the Illinois State Police, and their guns seized (and held for 18 months, until a court in this case forced their return), on the pretext that the husband was “mentally ill” for expressing pro-Second-Amendment ideas. The decision at this point is: can the case go forward, or can the oathbreaker cops (State Police Lieutenant Coffman and Officers Pryor and Summers, and head of the State Police Grau) have it dismissed? The court let the case against the anti-gun officers as individuals go forward, but dismissed the charges against Grau (in his official capacity), and dismissed a challenge to the constitutionality of the law “on its face.”
Here’s the legal opinion (.pdf) and here’s Professor Volokh’s post, which mostly quotes from the opinion except for the very useful reminder, at least to us nonlawyers, that in motion-to-dismiss stage, the court has to assume that the allegations the plaintiffs make are true. (In this case, the allegations are that the raid was warrantless, and that the underlying claim that David Rhein was mentally ill was fabricated by Coffman or his superiors, and that it was done at the behest of a Chicago Combine Junior Varsity politician).
Prof. Volokh is interested in gun law; he’s also interested, as a refugee from the former Soviet Union, in government attempts to use phony mental-illness charges to target politically “out” individuals, something that Coffman, Pryor and Summers seem to have in common with Putin, Andropov and Beria.
Our read of the opinion was enlightening, but always remember that, unlike Volokh, WANAALAAH (We Are Not At All Lawyers Anywhere Around Here™). So we could be completely off-base on this. Still, here’s our take.
- We can’t know what the final outcome of the case will be. Since we don’t know what evidence there is, or isn’t, for the proposition that Coffman made up (or accepted a politican’s making-up) the accusation that David Rhein was dangerously nuts, nor what evidence exists for the possible defense claim that Rhein really was nuts. On a motion to dismiss, the court has to assume the worst about the side of the case making the motion, which in this case was the defendants (the oathbreaker cops).
- The claim that the law’s erasure of Illinoisans’ gun rights (in the event of an unsupported allegation of mental illness) was unconstitutional did not go forward. The reason, inasmuch as we can understand the legal issue, is that, according to the plaintiff’s allegations, the state cops didn’t even comply with the law. Therefore, there’s no reason to address whether the law is constitutional or not. This seems illogical to a lay person (if a law’s unconstitutional, why can’t a court proactively bin it?) but the courts need to have a specific complaint against the law for a reason. This is a check on the otherwise mighty power of the Article 3 Courts. (See, it all comes back to the Constitution — which probably makes us nuts in Illinois).
- The dismissal of the head of the state police seems to have been on a technicality.
- Judging only from the opinion, the lawyer the Rheins have for this case seems to have covered a number of bases and protected his (or her?) case from dismissal, even as the court zapped a couple of claims. Conversely, the lawyer the state has covering the oathbreaker cops seems to be phoning it in. Now that the motions phase is winding up, the state will probably lose the weak lawyer and bring in the varsity team.
- As to where they got the weak lawyer, our guess is that one downside of Illinois nepotism is the shift in the balance of the state work force away from competence.
Most likely outcome: the state will now make settlement offers to forestall the possibility of a negative precedent. Can you imagine Illinois without oathbreaking cops? Why, they’d have to fight crime or something, or at least give out speeding tickets.