2nd Circuit Vacates Injunctions NYC Sought Against Gun Shops in SC and GA

May 4th, 2011

The 2nd Circuit has a lengthy opinion that vacates injunctions issued against gun shops in South Carolina and Georgia, whom Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York asserted were liable under a nuisance theory for providing guns to criminals in New York City.

Appeal from a default judgment and permanent injunctions entered by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Jack B. Weinstein, Judge) in favor of the plaintiff-appellee, the City of New York. The defendants appellants, Mickalis Pawn Shop, LLC, and Adventure Outdoors, Inc., are retail firearms dealers located in South Carolina and Georgia, respectively. The City of New York brought suit against them and other firearms dealers for public nuisance on the theory that they intentionally or negligently sell firearms in a manner23 susceptible to illegal trafficking to New York City. After engaging in litigation with the City for several years, each defendant-appellant defaulted. Upon entry of default judgment, the district court issued permanent injunctions prohibiting the defendants-appellants from further violations of the law and requiring them to undergo supervision by a court-appointed special master. They appealed, asserting that a default judgment should not have been entered; that the default judgment is, in any event, void for lack of personal jurisdiction over each defendant; and, in the alternative, that the injunctions violate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d) or are unconstitutional. We conclude that the defendants-appellants’ withdrawal from the district court proceedings justified the entry of default, followed by default judgment; that the defendants forfeited their defense of lack of personal jurisdiction; and that the default judgment is not void.

We agree with the defendants-appellants, however, that the injunctions issued by the district court13 violate Rule 65(d). We therefore vacate the injunctions and14 remand for further proceedings.

The injunction was found to be overbroad on a few grounds:

First, the injunctions impose on defendants an obligation to act “in full conformity with applicable laws pertaining to firearms,” and to “adopt[] appropriate prophylactic measures to prevent violation” of those laws, without specifying which laws are “applicable” or identifying the ways in which the defendants must alter their behavior to comply with those laws. . . .

Second, it appears that the injunctions, fairly read, prohibit not only “straw purchases” — the sole kind of illegal practice identified in the City’s amended complaint — but other, unidentified types of sales practices as well.

The injunctions are also problematic because of the extent to which they vest the Special Master with discretion to determine the terms of the injunctions themselves.

Constitutional questions aside, we conclude that, at the very least, the injunctions’ sweeping delegations of power to the Special Master violate Rule 65(d).

This case was not decided on any Second Amendment grounds, and only mentions Heller in a footnote.

Although, in the district court proceedings, variousdefendants asserted that the PLCAA barred suit against them, seeA-1 Jewelry II, 247 F.R.D. at 349-53; A-1 Jewelry III, 252 F.R.D.at 132, the district court did not expressly consider thequestion whether the PLCAA affected its subject-matterjurisdiction. In a related lawsuit, however, Judge Weinsteinconcluded that the PLCAA did not deprive the court of subjectmatterjurisdiction, and further determined that the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), did not bear on the question. See Bob Moates’, 253F.R.D. at 241-42.

H/T How Appealing. The NY Post has more.