U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez is expected to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of California’s controversial “fee shifting” law, which is being challenged by two different lawsuits, one involving the Second Amendment Foundation and the other involving the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
During a court hearing last Friday, Judge Benitez, who has been handling a number of Second Amendment-related cases, said the law would have a “chilling effect” on the public’s right to challenge state gun laws, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
The statute (AB 1594) which includes the fee shifting tenet (Section 1021.11) is set to take effect Jan. 1, but Judge Benitez is prepared to derail that.
The lawsuits are Miller v. Bonta (SAF) and South Bay Rod & Gun Club, Inc. v. Bonta (CCRKBA).
Joining SAF in the Miller case are the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. and several other plaintiffs. CCRKBA is paired with the South Bay Rod & Gun Club, California Rifle & Pistol Association and several others.
As noted by the California Globe, the fee shifting language is part of AB 1594, adopted earlier this year essentially as a response to a Texas abortion-related law (S.B. 8), which angered California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta. In a news release earlier this year, Bonta contended the Texas law is unconstitutional. The California law is patterned after the Texas statute. When Bonta declined to defend the fee shifting scheme in court, Newsom hired his own attorney and intervened in the lawsuit.
Fee-shifting makes it hazardous for firearms organizations, individual citizens and their attorneys to bring lawsuits because if they do not win on all points of a lawsuit, they would be made to pay all of the state’s legal fees.
Judge Benitez called this “abhorrent.”
The San Jose Mercury News quoted him observing, “I can’t think of anything more tyrannical.”
He said during the bench trial that the fee shifting tenet could close off access to the courts by discouraging people to bring legal action in defense of their rights.