A federal appeals court heard arguments today in a Fourth Amendment case that has united civil libertarians and gun rights advocates against the District of Columbia government.
At issue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was the question of whether a plaintiff could sue the city for wrongly targeting him with an arrest warrant, even though it was quickly withdrawn. The case was dismissed by a district court judge, who found that the man, Robert Ord, lacked standing.
Ord’s attorney, Matthew LeFande, told today’s three judge panel that upholding the lower court ruling would give the District unchecked authority to issue warrants without probable cause.
“I don’t think the court wants to advance that position,” LeFande said.
Ord sued the District in 2008, after the police issued, then rescinded, an arrest warrant claiming he illegally carried firearms into the city. A Virginia resident, Ord ran a private security company, and was designated a Special Conservator of the Peace. That should have given him the right to carry his weapon in Washington, where he had significant amount of business, he argued.
In his suit, he claimed he could no longer work in Washington because he feared the city would might try to arrest him again. He also argued that police had violated the Fourth Amendment, which states “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.” The city countered that because Ord had never been arrested, he had not suffered any harm, and the court could not grant any relief.
Both the Second Amendment Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area signed an amicus brief supporting Ord’s appeal, which the BLT covered here. This morning, the city, represented by D.C. Solicitor General Todd Kim, continued to argue that Ord had not been harmed by the warrant, and that he lacked a Constitutional claim
“We don’t think he has a Fourth Amendment claim without a search or seizure,” Kim told the panel, which included Judges Judith Rogers, Janice Rogers Brown and David Tatel.
Tatel seemed largely skeptical of the District’s position, pointedly asking why the case wasn’t being argued on its merits.
“What do you do with the Fourth amendment, which says no warrants shall be issued?” Tatel asked.
“You have to read it in context,” Kim said.
In his rebuttal, LaFante later dismissed that argument.
“The District wants to parse the Fourth Amendment the way it once parsed the Second Amendment,” he said, referring to the city’s failed legal battle to defend its restrictive gun laws.