Lawsuit to be filed?

→ Posted on Jun 30, 2009 - 10:09 AM

I received a call from a new reporter today indicating that a lawsuit should be filed in Nashville on July 1 asserting that HB0962, the restaurant carry bill, is unconstitutional and unenforceable.  According to local news reports (where the story has been leaked through a press release by the attorneys bringing the claim), the claims will be something along the lines of:

“The plaintiffs will allege that the bill is illegal on eight counts. Among them being, that the law is an unlawful public nuisance that threatens the life, health and safety of the public, as well as violating due process and increasing civil liability for the restaurants as well as violating Tennessee’s Occupational Safety and Health Act which expressively requires as a matter of federal and state law that employers provide a safe work place for employees. While a permit holder cannot drink alcohol while carrying a loaded weapon in a bar or restaurant, the new law doesn’t stop that person from having previously consumed alcohol.”

One news report, from the Nashville Scene, indicates that the reporter has talked with its “crack legal analysts” and that the lawsuit is likely to fail.

According to another news source and additional quotes from a press release from the attorneys, part of the claim is that the gun lobbies, including the National Rifle Association somehow lied or misled the General Assembly:

“Tennessee liquors laws do not differentiate between bars and restaurants,” says Attorney David Randolph Smith. “All nightclubs, cars, and bar areas of restaurants that presently serve alcohol (until the wee hours of the morning) are licensed as “restaurants.”  Therefore once this becomes law, Tennessee will become the first state in the union to ALLOW loaded concealed firearms by permit holders in bars.

“In reality, NONE of the 38 states identified by the National Rifle Association and the law’s proponents expressly permit guns in bars and fourteen of the 38 states identified by the NRA and the law’s supporters expressly prohibit loaded guns in bars or bar areas.”

Tennessee will also be the first state in the nation to decriminalize bringing a permitted firearm into a drinking establishment that posts a notice forbidding guns.”

Former Metro City Councilman Attorney Adam Dread, himself a member of the NRA, will serve as co-counsel to Mr. Smith on this case.  The plaintiffs are supported in this suit by the coalition SMART-Safe Merchants and Restaurants in Tennessee- a group of business owners that have joined the fight against the new bill.  Interestingly, the lead plaintiff, Randy Rayburn, has been all over the news on this issue but then again this is the same Randy Rayburn who announced in December 2008 that he wanted to run for Metro Council.

It is expected that the lawsuit will ask a judge to issue an order keeping the restaurant law from going into effect.  That should not happen but you never know in a court of law.

It is expected that the principal defendant is the State of Tennessee which would be defended by Attorney General Robert Cooper (or his office).  Cooper was formerly Phil Bredesen’s counsel—some might wonder if that creates a conflict of interest?

If this group of business owners were really this interested in the law, where have they been for the last 15 years?  This issue is one which has been trashed in the newspapers, on TV and on national news repeatedly over the last 15 years and more so during the last 4 years as the Tennessee Senate has repeatedly passed the law.  Anyone with any political sense about them could have predicted with the defeat of Jimmy Naifeh as House Speaker that this is one positive CHANGE in the law that would result from the November 2008 elections.

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