A recent case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals provides a window on what President Trump’s impact will be on the courts. Federal law makes it illegal to buy handguns across state lines. Several plaintiffs sued, arguing that this restriction violates the Second Amendment.
The case was originally heard before a three-judge panel, and the plaintiffs lost. Then they asked to have the case heard by the full Fifth Circuit Court of 15 judges. The plaintiffs lost again 8-7, but you can see how that might change in the future.
The court is supposed to have 17 seats, but at the time had two vacancies. A 16thjudge has now been confirmed, and another Trump appointee will be coming sometime in the future. You can see how they might change the vote the other way.
In previous commentaries, I have mentioned Judge James Ho. He wrote the primary dissent in the case. He reminded the court that “For decades, the Supreme Court has referred to the Second Amendment as a fundamental civil right, comparable to other provisions of the Bill of Rights.” He went on to complain that “the Second Amendment continues to be treated as a second-class right.”
He further makes the case that all of these restrictions infringe on “countless law-abiding citizens . . . to obtain a handgun.” Then he points out this discrepancy: We would never allow a law that would ban the sale of books across state lines, but apparently have no problem banning the sale of handguns across state lines. He also warned that “Law-abiding Americans should not be conflated with dangerous criminals.”
This recent case illustrates two points. First, the appointment by President Trump of additional judges on the court may change some of these rulings. Second, Judge James Ho is quickly becoming a judicial force worth watching.