California Gun Case May Be Justice Gorsuch’s First on SCOTUS

Judge Neil Gorsuch
AP/David Zalubowski

With Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to replace Antonin Scalia as a Justice of Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), he may immediately have an impact on a Second Amendment case from California, plus a long docket of government authority cases.

  • In a California firearms restriction case: Peruta v. San Diego, a plaintiff is challenging government restrictions on the Second Amendment right of ordinary, law-abiding citizens to carry handguns outside of their home for self-defense, including concealed carry when open carry is forbidden by state law.
  • In a religious freedom case: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, from Gorsuch’s home state of Colorado, a baker claims the state’s public accommodations law, which mandated him to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in spite of his religious beliefs, violates the free exercise or free speech clauses of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases on April 25 regarding jurisdiction for plaintiffs to file lawsuits against businesses in states where they have no substantial presence.

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California: The California Supreme Court ruled that both in-state and out-of-state plaintiffs could sue the pharmaceutical company in California for injuries and deaths caused by Plavix, a blood-thinning drug used to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in patients known to be at high risk.
  •  BNSF Railway v. Tyrrell: The Montana Supreme Court ruled that two workers for the Texas-based railroad could file a lawsuit in Montana courts to collect for injuries suffered outside of Montana.

SCOTUS will also hear arguments in two securities litigation cases in April that deal with deadlines or statutes of limitations. Gorsuch, as a lawyer in private practice in 2005, wrote a Legal Times column praising procedural steps that are intended to curb “frivolous” securities class action lawsuits that he claimed cause an “enormous toll on the economy.” But Judge Gorsuch’s Circuit Court rulings indicate he still supports a strict reading of federal laws restricting class actions and related litigation.

Other SCOTUS cases of high interest include Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comerwhere a Missouri church argues that the state constitutional amendment excluding religious organizations from a state playground-resurfacing grant program violates the First Amendment free exercise clause and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause.

Gorsuch’s 10th Circuit opinions in Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor reflected a willingness to accommodate church-state conflicts regarding exemptions from providing contraceptive health insurance. He also supported religious displays on public property.



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