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Sam Heldman


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Monday, October 14, 2002
No. 01-704 United States v. Bean

Federal law prohibits convicted felons from posessing firearms. Congress allowed such felons to apply to get their right to own a gun back, but then decided that it would not allow the ATF to spend any money considering those applications. Note also that Congress had provided for judicial review of the determination of whether the felon can get his gun back. The whole controersy is whether, by failing to consider the application, the application was effectively denied and the felon may then obtain relief through the federal courts as provided by the statute. Why, you might ask, wouldn't Congress just repeal the law if it didn't want any felons to be able to get the relief it had earlier decided they should have? Unfortunately, Congress is like a 535-headed hydra and cannot answer such questions. Thus, the Supreme Court must answer the unanswerable question of whether the prohibition of the expenditure of funds on deciding a permit application mandated by another statute acts as an effective denial of the permit such that a federal court may review such denial.

There is plenty of blog controversy surrounding this case, with Howard Bashman predicting that the Court will reverse the Fifth Circuit's ruling that the Federal Courts do have jurisdiction, while Tom Goldstein who is arguing the case for Mr. Bean, clearly feels differently. I think that the court will find that a grant of jurisdiction cannot be repealed this way, and that the court will AFFIRM the Fifth Circuit.