XDM 3.8 Compact, 9mm pistol. (Aaron Hayes)
It’s time for a do-over.
The full membership of the Connecticut Bar Association will now get to vote on whether the bar group will have a role in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Connecticut gun control measures passed in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.
In late July, the CBA’s House of Delegates voted 34-15 in favor of the CBA joining an amicus brief that will be filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The amicus will back Connecticut legislation that expanded the number of banned assault-style weapons and restricted ownership of large ammunition magazines. The state Attorney General’s Office is formally defending the law, which is being challenged by several Second Amendment groups.
The House of Delegates vote proved to be controversial and the dissent came to a head this week. CBA members upset with the decision obtained the necessary 50 signatures required under the association’s constitution to send the matter to a vote of all 9,000 members.
Just how and when the actual vote will take place will be decided at a House of Delegates meeting in New Britain on Wednesday Aug. 13. at 6 p.m.
Tony Miodonka, who practices at Finn, Dixon & Herling in Stamford, organized the charge to get enough signatures for a referendum. Like many others who opposed the House of Delegates vote, he said he objected to the CBA becoming involved in a hot-button political topic. “This is not a gun-control issue. It’s just not about that,” Miodonka told the Law Tribune. “I think people from both sides of the issue can see this as a CBA governance issue and the scope of what the CBA should be involved in as an organization.”
Miodonka said gun control is a political issue that people have strong opinions about one way or the other. He believes the CBA should stick to issues impacting the CBA directly, not “derisive political issues like this.”
For instance, Miodonka said the CBA would be better served opining on whether the state should adopt mandatory continuing legal education or suggesting new rules for the judiciary. “I think those are the kinds of issues dealing with the practice of law — legal procedures, legal certifications, bar testing — those kinds of issues that are really related to the legal profession or practice of law as such,” he said.
Miodonka said he obtained the necessary 50 signatures and much more through an email petition he circulated about to membership. He said he got about 170 signatures total.
Supporters of the House of Delegates’ vote said they felt it was important for the CBA to take a stand on a vital matter of public safety and human rights.
CBA President Mark Dubois has said he believes a solid majority of members are in favor of joining the amicus backing the gun control laws.
Dubois confirmed that the signature requirement for the referendum was met and that details on how the vote will be conducted will be determined at the Aug. 13 meeting. He expects the vote will take place electronically, but matters such as how long people will have to cast their vote and eligibility need to be worked out.
For instance, the organization’s fiscal year begins July 1. Howwever, he said that members’ annual dues often trickle in after that date. Those who have not yet paid up would be locked out of the CBA’s website, on which the voting could take place. And so Dubois said the delegates will have to decide whether former members who haven’t paid up yet would be eligible to vote.
Dubois said documents about the gun control issue would be placed online, and a forum will be created where members can debate the issue. He noted that the CBA’s website was upgraded within the past couple weeks. “The beauty of our new website, which we rolled out last week, we can communicate with our members instantly electronically,” said Dubois, who practices at Geraghty and Bonnano in New London. “We can put up a voting tool and everyone who is an active member can participate.”
Dubois said the advantage of having the entire CBA vote is that “everyone gets a voice.”
The downside: “You can’t get 9,000 members to a debate, where at the House we had about 50 people there. We had an excellent debate and I know people’s minds were changed both ways. That discourse is lost when you have just a mail in or email in ballot.”
Dubois said with the web page forum, members will be able to have some type of debate. Miodonka also said he expects letters to be written by supporters of both points of view that will likely be emailed to the CBA membership and perhaps be submitted to the Law Tribune.
“But I will tell you, for my two cents, nothing beats oral argument,” said Dubois. “I’m sorry we’re not going to have that.”
After the Connecticut legislature passed what has been described as some of the toughest gun control measures in the nation in 2013, the Connecticut Citizen’s Defense League and the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen argue that the new law tramples on their right to bear arms and protect themselves.
Connecticut U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello dismissed their lawsut, reasoning that because many types of hanguns and rifles are still legal, the measure, “does not effectively disarm individuals or substantially affect their ability to defend themselves.”
The Second Amendment groups appealed to the Second Circuit. The request to join the Brady Campaign’s amicus in the case called Shew v. Malloy was made by the Connecticut Bar Association’s Human Rights and Responsibility Section. Attorneys general from about two dozen other states — mostly in the West and South — have filed an amicus in opposition to the Connecticut law.