AG: Dismiss Cheeseball Gun Nut Lawsuit

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Colorado Public Radio reported Friday and we wanted to be sure it got a mention:

Gov. Jared Polis is asking the Denver District Court to dismiss a Republican lawsuit over the passage of a so-called “red flag” gun law last legislative session. The Colorado Attorney General’s office filed a motion Thursday.

Polis signed the measure into law April 12. The gun rights group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and three Republican lawmakers sued Polis a few weeks later, arguing that Democrats who control the House did not fulfill a Republican request to read the bill out loud in a full and intelligible way.

The Attorney General’s office says those lawmakers should have raised concerns closer to when the original bill reading requests were made in March.

“But rather than complain then to the legislature, they kept quiet until the session ended, not allowing the legislature an opportunity to cure the alleged defect, and now ask this Court to intervene in a hotly contested political issue.”

It’s important to understand the nature of the legal challenge filed by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, Rep. “Pistol Packin'” Lori Saine, and Rep. Dave Williams, which is not a challenge to the actual extreme risk protection order (ERPO) itself but rather the legislative procedure in passing the bill. Readers of course remember the battle over reading bills at length in this year’s legislative session, which Republicans temporarily won (the case is still pending) when a judge ordered Democrats to have them read intelligibly. This suit seeks to invalidate a bill passed by both chambers and signed into law by the governor, on the basis that at some point along the way a superfluous request that the bill be read at length wasn’t honored.

Attorney General Phil Weiser’s response is that Republicans essentially sandbagged this complaint about the bill not being read at length so as to provide a pretext to challenge the bill after the end of the legislative session. That puts the court in a position of having to settle a wholly political question, which courts prefer not to do.

But most importantly, this is not a challenge to the law on its merits. For all the hue and cry about the ERPO law’s alleged unconstitutionality, similar “red flag” laws already exist in a dozen other states, and the law functions similarly to laws that already require persons subject to restraining orders to temporarily surrender their firearms. The reason Colorado House Republicans and their allies at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) chose this process angle against the law as the basis of their lawsuit is simple: they know a direct challenge to the law’s constitutionality will fail.

Once you understand that, this whole undertaking looks very different.


10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RepealAndReplace says:

    And they have Larry, Curly and Amos as named plaintiffs.

  2. 2Jung2Die2Jung2Die says:

    I know the Court reads Pols, so please go ahead and expand this narrow case to examine the original intent behind reading bills at length, and let's see if the intent really was to let partisans run out the clock or stall when they're in the minority. My fervent hope is that Coloradans of the past were more practical than that. 

    • MADCO says:

      it's not a law. -it's internal House process
      How would any court have jurisdiction?

      I smell a fundraising effort

      • 2Jung2Die2Jung2Die says:

        Sorry, was thinking about CO Constitution Art. V Sec. 22, which says "Every bill shall be read by title when introduced, and at length on two different days in each house; provided, however, any reading at length may be dispensed with upon unanimous consent of the members present." I think the House rule more or less lays out the House procedure for doing what the Constitution specifies when a member requests a reading out loud.

        I thought the tongue-in-cheek of my original comment was more obvious than apparently it was. However, the Rs did lean on the Constitution this session to show they had the right to have bills read at length, then bragged about how they were using it to stall.

        That's why I'm interested in the intent behind having bills read at length – there's actually a little bit about it in the Motion To Dismiss in the CPR story linked in this diary. It says reading laws were enacted before the digital age when bills became available online, and to make sure bills weren't passed "without giving the members of the Legislature an opportunity to study their contents." It's a random sample of two sentences to be sure, but it didn't mention stalling as a legitimate reason to have bills read at length.  I don't at all think that makes stalling illegal or more immoral than any type of filibuster, but I do think there could be a worthy discussion to try avoiding a repeat of what happened in 2019.

        • JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

          I went looking and found two general rationales for "oral reading" of proposed laws.

          • some legislators were not highly functional "literate" readers.
          • it was a challenging process to prepare and distribute multiple copies, and the "reading" copy allowed for catching and correcting typos or incorrect punctuation, and inserting handwritten amendments.


          • 2Jung2Die2Jung2Die says:

            Interested if you have a ballpark as to how long it's been since it actually was a challenging process to do copies for 100 people. As to the first bullet point, not gonna touch it!

            • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

              Well, mimeograph machines were readily available in the 50s. I have no doubt there was at least one at the Capitol way back then. So this law has been superfluous for almost 70 years.

              • JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

                As I learned earlier this year, much to my sorrow, this "law" is enshrined in the Colorado Constitution. 

                If Colorado stays consistently blue for three or four election cycles, it may be worth considering a Constitutional Convention to craft a new document.  There's a fair amount in there which is anachronistic (as demonstrated by the recent "slavery" removal), micromanaging (parliamentary procedure for the House debate process), and positively threatening (the Gordian knot of mandates without funding, and funding limits which did not anticipate mandates).

                Make most of what's in there laws. Mandate that courts ought to consider those laws in light of their one-time status as Constitutional.  Then write a document of basic principals of government, Colorado-style. Then start the multiple-session process of whacking out laws that no longer serve a purpose.  [Maybe even dedicate the first week of each legislative session to repeals only.]

                • 2Jung2Die2Jung2Die says:

                  There already is a state committee to examine statutes (not the Constitution) with the goal of getting rid of obsolete or redundant language. This is kind of case-by-case, not geared toward a big rewrite, but it shows we have some institutional awareness that laws need updates or corrections to keep with the times.

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    The question before the court: “What is the “intelligible way” to read to Colorado’s Legislative Republicans”????? . . .

    . . . the findings will no doubt have to be read, and then explained at length, to the plaintiffs.  

    . . . 

    (A post summary comprehension test will not be required — there’s no chance any of them will be able to read the questions, let alone answer any properly.)

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