(Philadelphia, June 20) – Mayor Kenney is praising today’s state Supreme Court decision which affirms the unconstitutionality of Act 192. That 2014 law authorized anyone eligible to own a firearm to sue local municipalities over any municipal ordinance relating to firearms.
“Act 192 was wrong for both the way in which it was adopted, and its intent to intimidate municipalities in Pennsylvania,” said Mayor Kenney. “This is a great victory for proper legislative procedure and for the ability of local governments to adopt common sense gun regulations without fear of financially crippling litigation.”
Act 192 gave legal standing to organizations such as the National Rifle Association to sue cities and towns in Pennsylvania over their gun safety laws, and provided for attorney fees to a successful plaintiff. The Act would have overturned years of case law that require a plaintiff to actually be aggrieved by a particular statute in order to challenge it. It would have specifically overturned the City’s victory in NRA v. Philadelphia, which held that the NRA lacks standing to challenge the City’s Lost and Stolen Gun Ordinance. And it would have overturned the general rule that each party pays for its own attorney fees.
Philadelphia joined with several other municipalities and State legislators (led by Sen. Daylin Leach) to sue the Commonwealth to invalidate Act 192. The measure was declared unconstitutional by Commonwealth Court in June 2015, and today’s Supreme Court Ruling upholds that decision.
“Act 192 was passed by the General Assembly without any public notice or debate, and would have flooded the courts with ‘advocacy’ litigation, even when the plaintiffs had no real legal stake in the case,” said City Solicitor Sozi Tulante. “We are thankful that the Supreme Court has recognized that this is not the way to pass important State legislation; and that it is not proper to overturn decades of cases upholding the important principle that a party needs to have ‘standing’ in order to bring a lawsuit to court.”
Act 192 began its life in the General Assembly as a bill to criminalize the theft of copper wire. At the last possible moment, it was amended to create a new cause of action to sue municipalities regarding local firearm regulations and to provide for attorney fees. The Supreme Court properly held that this type of legislative gamesmanship is precisely what the constitutional single subject rule was intended to prevent.
The lawsuit to overturn Act 192 was argued by attorneys at Dechert, LLP, handling the case pro bono. The City was represented in the case by its Law Department, who acted as co-counsel in the case. Shira Goodman at CeaseFire PA coordinated the filing of the lawsuit.