A federal appeals court said there is “no clear reason” why a Nassau County woman whose rifles and shotguns were taken away as part of a now-expired order of protection should not receive a hearing to determine if her weapons should be returned.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Eastern District Judge Joan Azrack’s 2015 decision to order a hearing on returning plaintiff Christine Panzella’s two rifles and two shotguns, which were seized as part of an order of protection filed by her ex-husband.
The order of protection stated it would be a federal offense for Panzella to buy, transfer or possess a firearm while the order was in effect, though it did not order Panzella to surrender firearms that she already possessed.
Regardless, Nassau County sheriff’s deputies seized Panzella’s longarms in 2012 while serving her with the order.
After Panzella’s ex-husband withdrew his petition to extend the order of protection in March 2013, Panzella asked to have her firearms returned. But the sheriff’s department refused to do so unless it received a court order, which is its policy.
Writing for the circuit, Judge Guido Calabresi said that, while Panzella could file an Article 78 petition to fight for the return of her longarms, the proceedings would put the burden on Panzella.
Holding a “prompt” post-deprivation hearing would provide Panzella with a “timely and inexpensive” forum to challenge Nassau County’s retention of her weapons, the judge said.
Calabresi was joined in the decision by Judge Rosemary Pooler and Western District Judge Lawrence Vilardo, sitting by designation.
Robert La Reddola, a partner with La Reddola, Lester & Associates, represented Panzella. Deputy Nassau County Attorney Robert Van der Waag appeared for Nassau County.