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Medina v. Lynch

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 6, 2017

JORGE L. MEDINA, Plaintiffs,
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, [1] in his official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, Defendants.



         Due to a decades-old felony conviction for making a false statement on a bank loan application, Plaintiff Jorge Medina, a Los Angeles area small business owner, is barred by federal law from ever possessing a firearm. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Medina contends that this ban violates the Second Amendment as applied to him because he has been a responsible and largely law-abiding citizen in the 25-plus years since his conviction. While the Court has no cause to doubt Medina's rehabilitation, it finds little support for his as-applied challenge in the relevant Second Amendment precedent. The Court will therefore grant the government's motion to dismiss Medina's complaint.

         I. Background

         Jorge Medina is a longtime resident of the Los Angeles area. Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 5. In 1990, Medina made a false statement on two loan applications to a local bank, inflating his income five-fold in order to meet the qualification standards. Id. ¶¶ 12, 17-19. Medina fessed up to the falsifications upon being questioned by the FBI and in November 1991 pled guilty to one count of making a false statement to a federally-insured financial institution in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Medina was sentenced to sixty days of home confinement, a $10, 000 fine, and three years of probation (which was terminated early). Id. ¶ 24. Despite the relatively light sentence, Medina's conviction disqualified him from possessing a gun because 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) prohibits firearm possession by any person convicted of “a crime punishable by a term exceeding one year” and section 1014 carried a 30-year maximum sentence. Id. ¶ 23.

         Medina attests to being a law-abiding citizen since his 1991 conviction, with one exception. In the mid-1990s, Medina purchased a partnership in a hunting ranch in Wyoming, where he occasionally hunted game.[2] Id. ¶ 27. He later applied for and obtained a series of Wyoming resident hunting licenses. Id. ¶ 31. On the applications, Medina listed the address of the ranch. Id. But that was not sufficient under Wyoming law to establish individual residency for the purpose of resident hunting licenses. Id. ¶ 20. Medina claims he was unaware of the law. Id. ¶ 32-33. In any case, after the authorities learned of the issue and filed a criminal information against Medina, he pled guilty to three class-five misdemeanors covering each license he had obtained. Id. ¶¶ 33, 37; see Wyo. Stat. § 23-3-403(b). He was given a $2, 500 fine and his hunting privileges were revoked for eight years. Id. ¶ 38.

         Medina filed this suit in August 2016. He contends that the federal felon-in-possession ban violates the Second Amendment as applied to him because he has led a responsible and law-abiding life since his convictions. The complaint thus seeks an order declaring section 922(g)(1) unconstitutional as applied and an injunction barring its enforcement against Medina on the basis of his 1991 felony conviction. The government has moved to dismiss Medina's complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). It argues first that Medina lacks standing, and thus the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, because California's firearm statute erects an independent bar to Medina's ability to possess a gun. And on the merits, the government submits that section 922(g)(1) passes constitutional muster both as a categorical ban against possession of firearms by convicted felons and as applied to Medina's particular circumstances. The Court held a hearing on the motion on May 26, 2017.

         II. Legal Standards

         Because “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, ” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (quotation marks omitted), they have “an affirmative obligation to consider whether the constitutional and statutory authority exist for [them] to hear each dispute” brought before them, James Madison Ltd. ex rel. Hecht v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1092 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (quotation marks omitted). If the “court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         “[D]efect[s] of standing” constitute “defect[s] in subject matter jurisdiction.” Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). The “plaintiff bears the burden of . . . establishing the elements of standing, ” and each element “‘must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.'” Arpaio v. Obama, 797 F.3d 11, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). Accordingly, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim [of standing] that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (alterations in original). “[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of [standing], supported by mere conclusory statements, [will] not suffice, ” id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678) (second alteration in original), and the Court need not “assume the truth of legal conclusions” nor must it “‘accept inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint, '” id. (quoting Islamic Am. Relief Agency v. Gonzales, 477 F.3d 728, 732 (D.C. Cir. 2007)).

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, a “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A court “accept[s] as true all of the allegations contained in [the] complaint, ” disregarding “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” and “mere conclusory statements.” Id. Then, the Court examines the remaining “factual content [to determine if it may] draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         A. Whether Medina has standing to bring his claim in federal court

         The Supreme Court has established that the constitutional requirement of standing involves three elements:

First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact-an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of-the injury has to be fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not . . . th[e] result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court. Third, it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61 (internal citation and footnote omitted). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements. . . . At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss [the Court] presume[s] that general allegations embrace those specific facts ...

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