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New Md. officeholders mean new captions for old court appeals

Far from the pageantry of this month’s transfer of governmental power in Annapolis, the change from Gov. Larry Hogan to Gov. Wes Moore will occur with much less fanfare in the clerk’s office of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

Likewise, a coming switch from Attorney General Brian E. Frosh to Attorney General Anthony G. Brown will occur not with the swearing of an oath but with the tapping of keys on a keyboard.

Hogan and Frosh had been the named appellees in pending appeals brought by gun rights advocates challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s handgun licensing requirements and ban on semiautomatic assault-style weapons, respectively.

Hogan and Frosh had been named in their official capacities, which they now no longer have following Moore’s swearing in Wednesday in the Senate Chamber – with Oprah Winfrey looking on — and Brown’s swearing in Jan. 3 in the House of Delegates chamber.

Frosh on Thursday characterized the pending case caption change as bittersweet.

“That’s a fight I’m proud to be in,” Frosh said, declining to depart from present tense. “It’s a good fight and I’m sure Anthony Brown will be proud.”

Frosh, then chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, shepherded through the General Assembly the 2013 Firearm Safety Act, which set forth the licensing requirements and the assault-style weapons ban.

Case caption changes will not be limited to the governor and attorney general but will also include tax cases that had named former Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot as a party. The new named party will be Brooke Lierman, who succeeded Franchot on Monday.

In addition, cases and appeals that named recently governmental department heads will also be changed to reflect the new officeholder.

Oprah will likely not be on hand for those clerical alterations.

“Generally speaking, clerks will do it on their own,” said appellate attorney Michael Wein, a Greenbelt solo practitioner.

Wein equated caption alterations to the change — in name only — of Maryland’s appeals courts, from the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals to the Supreme Court and Appellate Court.

New names become “kind of automatic in the minds of the attorneys,” Wein said.  “I think it’s somewhat automatic.”

In Maryland Shall Issue v. Wes Moore (previously, Larry Hogan), MSI contends that the state’s licensing requirement for would-be handgun buyers infringes upon the Constitution’s Second Amendment right of people to keep arms for personal protection in their home and has no historical roots from either 18th- or 19th-century America.

The state, in the governor’s name, has countered that the history and tradition of ensuring gun owners are trained in firearm use dates to 1792 – the year after the Second Amendment’s ratification — when Congress enacted the Uniform Militia Act. Several states passed similar statutes shortly after, Maryland has argued in papers filed with the 4th Circuit.

The appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in early March.

In Bianchi v. Anthony G. Brown (previously, Brian E. Frosh), gun rights advocates say the ban on semiautomatic assault-style weapons – including the AR-15 — violates the Second Amendment because the guns, though dangerous, are commonly used by law-abiding citizens.

The advocates cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in stating that gun restrictions are constitutionally valid only if in keeping with the nation’s history of regulating “dangerous and unusual” weapons when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 or when the 14th Amendment extended the right to the states in 1868.

The state, in the attorney general’s name, has countered that the ban passes constitutional muster because it is in keeping with the nation’s history of restricting “extraordinarily dangerous” offensive weapons dating to the bowie knife in the early 1800s.

The 4th Circuit heard arguments in the case last month. The court has not set a date for issuing its decision.

 


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