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The D.C. Attorney General’s Office is bringing in the big guns for its petition to the Supreme Court that challenges the overturning of the District’s handgun ban by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Thomas Goldstein, head of Supreme Court litigation for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Walter Dellinger, chairman of the appellate practice at O’Melveny & Myers, have signed on as co-counsel and agreed to work pro bono on the case. Last week, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the appeal of the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision in March. That ruling marked “the first time in the nation’s history that any appellate court has struck down a law as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment,” stated the District’s request for a 30-day extension to file its petition. The Court agreed last week to extend the deadline until Sept. 5. The D.C. Circuit ruling — which conflicts with decisions from the D.C. Court of Appeals and many federal appellate courts — found the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms, rather than just a collective right related to militias. The Court hasn’t directly addressed the issue since United States v. Miller in 1939. D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer says her office will retain control of the appeal and one of her office’s lawyers will argue the case before the Court if cert is granted for the Court’s next term, beginning in October. Goldstein and Dellinger have “terrific expertise in doing Supreme Court litigation, and they are advising us,” Singer says. Goldstein has argued 17 cases before the Supreme Court, while Dellinger argued nine cases as acting U.S. solicitor general a decade ago. (Goldstein also is a columnist for Legal Times.) “It’s not that we had a strongly held view on the gun question itself,” Goldstein says. “It’s much more about the client than it is about a cause. We think the system works best when people have good lawyering, and we felt we could contribute something to litigating it at the Supreme Court.” In its request for the petition deadline extension, the District stated there is “at minimum a substantial prospect that this Court will grant certiorari and, indeed, a substantial prospect of reversal.” Dellinger was more circumspect about reading the tea leaves: “I’m never hesitant to predict if the Court will grant cert, but I’m usually always wrong.”
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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