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Northwest School of Safety v. Ferguson

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 7, 2015

NORTHWEST SCHOOL OF SAFETY, a Washington sole proprietorship, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOB FERGUSON, Attorney General of Washington (in his official capacity), et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Bob Ferguson, John R. Batiste, Washington Attorney General's Office, and Does I-V's (collectively "Defendants") motion to dismiss (Dkt. 23). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion and dismisses Plaintiffs' claims without prejudice for the reasons stated herein.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 30, 2014, Plaintiffs Northwest School of Safety, Puget Sound Security, Inc., Pacific Northwest Association of Investigators, Inc., Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc., Darryl Lee, Xee Del Real, Joe Waldron, Gene Gottlieb, Andrew Gottlieb, Alan Gottlieb, Gottlieb Revocable Living Family Trust, and Second Amendment Foundation (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed a complaint against Defendants asserting violations of the "Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Sections 3 and 24 of Article I of the Washington State Constitution...." Dkt. 1, ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that Initiative to the Legislature No. 594's ("I-594") amendments to RCW 9.41 infringe on a "host of Second Amendment rights...." Id. ¶ 2.

On March 5, 2015, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 23. On March 23, 2015, the Court granted Intervenor Defendants Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund for I594, Cheryl Stumbo, and Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility's ("Intervenors") motion to intervene. Dkt. 29. That same day, Northwest responded to the motion to dismiss (Dkt. 30) and Intervenors joined in the response (Dkt. 31). On March 27, 2015, Defendants replied. Dkt. 32.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege that I-594 criminalizes the "non-commercial transfer' of firearms" in Washington, presenting "a serious impediment to sharing firearms for selfdefense and firearms safety" and imposing "an overwhelming burden on individuals who are involved in repeated transfers of the same firearm...." Dkt. 1, ¶ 2. Plaintiffs have expressed no intent to violate the I-594 amendments and claim to have refrained from all conduct that might violate I-594. Id. ¶ 29. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that they have not received any threats of prosecution from Defendants. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants move the Court to dismiss this action because (1) Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the I-594 amendments, (2) Plaintiffs' claims are not ripe, and (3) Defendants assert Eleventh Amendment immunity. Dkt. 23.

A. Article III Standing

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs lack standing to assert their claims. Article III of the United States Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases and controversies. Under Article III, courts use the doctrine of standing "to identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992) (citing Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155 (1990)). To satisfy Article III standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate that

(1) it has suffered an injury in fact' that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81 (2000).

In this case, Defendants only challenge the first prong of the standing inquiry, which is injury in fact. Plaintiffs argue that they are currently being injured and, in the alternative, that Defendants' case law is outdated and has been rejected by the Supreme Court. Dkt. 30 at 4-10. Plaintiffs' arguments, however, are somewhat unorganized as they claim that they have suffered an actual injury under Medlmmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 128-29 (2007), which they assert is the Supreme Court case that has expressly rejected existing Ninth Circuit law. Dkt. 30 at 5, 10. The Court ...


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