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Edward Peruta, Michelle Laxson, James v. William

December 10, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court


This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief from Defendant's policies for obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon pursuant to California Penal Code § 12050. At the heart of the parties' dispute is whether the right recognized by the Supreme Court's rulings in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago, 130 S. Ct. 3020 (2010)-the right to possess handguns in the home for self-defense-extends to the right asserted here: the right to carry a loaded handgun in public, either openly or in a concealed manner. The matter is presently before the Court is a motion for partial summary judgment brought by Plaintiffs and a motion for summary judgment brought by Defendant William Gore. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment.


The Plaintiffs

Each individual Plaintiff is a resident of San Diego County. Pls.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") at 6. None of the Plaintiffs is disqualified under federal or California law from purchasing or possessing firearms. Id. Each individual Plaintiff applied to the San Diego Sheriff's Department for a license to carry a concealed weapon ("CCW") or a renewal, and each was denied for lack of "good cause" or told by the Sheriff's Department that he or she would be ill-advised to apply due to lack of "good cause."*fn1 Id. at 7. In addition to being denied due to lack of "good cause," Plaintiff Edward Peruta alleges he was denied a CCW license based on his residency. See Pls.' Consolidated SUF ¶ 15. Defendant maintains the residency requirement was not a factor in the denial. Id. Plaintiff California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation ("CRPAF") is an organization dedicated to educating the public about firearms and protecting the rights thereto. See Pls.' SUF at6.

Concealed Carry Licensing Scheme

California Penal Code sections 12050-12054 set forth the criteria that applicants for CCW licenses must meet: Applicants must be of good moral character, be a resident of or spend substantial time in the County in which they apply, demonstrate good cause and take a firearms course. In San Diego County, all license applications go to Defendant Sheriff William Gore are handled by his authorized representatives. See Def.'s SUF ¶ 1. The "good cause" provision of Penal Code section 12050 is at issue in this case.

Defendant defines "good cause" under Penal Code section 12050 as a set of circumstances that distinguishes the applicant from other members of the general public and causes him or her to be placed in harm's way. See Def.'s SUF ¶ 5. Generalized fear for one's personal safety is not, standing alone, considered "good cause." Id. To demonstrate "good cause," new applicants must provide supporting documentation. See Pls.' SUF ¶ 9.

Plaintiffs contend that the counter clerks sometimes discourage applicants from applying for a license, and in doing so, they serve Defendants' purpose of minimizing the number of applicants and the documentation of denials.

License holders may renew licenses up to 30 days prior to the expiration date. Def.'s SUF ¶ 8. Renewals are issued on the spot absent any negative law enforcement contacts, crime cases, arrests, etc. See id. Applicants still need to provide some form of documentation to support a continued need but not to the extent of the initial application. Id. Plaintiffs maintain that Plaintiff Cleary was required to produce documentation for his renewal, but that the County granted several renewal applications of Honorary Deputy Sheriffs' Association ("HDSA") members without requiring supporting documentation. Pls.' Consolidated SUF ¶ 10.

Defendant defines residency under Penal Code section 12050 to include any person who maintains a permanent residence in the County or spends more than six months of the taxable year within the County if the individual claims dual residency. See id. ¶ 16. Part-time residents who spend less than six months in the County are considered on a case-by-case basis and CCW licenses have been issued to part-time residents. Id.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff Edward Peruta filed his original complaint on October 23, 2009, asserting that Penal Code section 12050 violated the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the right to travel under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on November 13, 2009. (Doc. No.3.) The Court denied Defendant's motion to dismiss on January 14, 2010, and Defendant filed an answer soon thereafter. (Doc. Nos. 7, 8.) On April 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a First Amended Complaint to add additional Plaintiffs and claims. (Doc. No. 16.) The Court granted Plaintiffs' motion on June 25, 2010, and Defendant filed an answer to Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint on July 9, 2010. (Doc. Nos. 24, 28.)

Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment by Defendant and a motion for partial summary judgment by Plaintiffs. (Doc. Nos. 34, 38.) Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims, whereas Plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment only on the right to bear arms and certain equal protection claims. For purposes of their motions, and with the Court's approval, the parties adopted (and later modified) a stipulated briefing schedule and completed briefing by November 10, 2010. The Court held oral argument on the parties' motions on November 15, 2010. (Doc. No. 60.)


Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and materials demonstrate "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material issue of fact is a question a trier of fact must answer to determine the rights of the parties under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

The moving party bears "the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. To satisfy this burden, the movant must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. Id. at 322. Where the moving party does not have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may carry its initial burden of production in one of two ways: "The moving party may produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's case, or, after suitable discovery, the moving party may show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element of its claim or defense to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000). To withstand a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must then show that there are genuine factual issues which can only be resolved by the trier of fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 738 (9th Cir. 2000). The non-moving party may not rely on the pleadings alone, but must present specific facts creating a genuine issue of material fact through affidavits, depositions, or answers to interrogatories. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

The court must review the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hernandez v. Spacelabs Med. Inc., 343 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir. 2003). However, unsupported conjecture or conclusory statements are insufficient to defeat summary judgment. Id.; Surrell v. Cal. Water Serv. Co., 518 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008). Moreover, the court is not required "'to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact,'" Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir.1996) (citations omitted), but rather "may limit its review to the documents submitted for purposes of ...

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