The future of concealed carry gun permits in California is … on hold.
With the courtroom arguments in two of the biggest gun-related lawsuits in the country complete, attention turns to the 11 federal judges who will rule on them. But there’s no deadline, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is notorious for moving slowly and many of the judges who heard oral arguments last week were coming to the cases with little direct knowledge of the five years of back and forth.
After a petition from the state’s attorney general’s office to rehear the combined cases Peruta v. San Diego County and Richards v. Prieto, the court elected to hold an en banc review, meaning in front of the entire bench. But with 29 judges, the 9th Circuit is too large to fit every judge in the same courtroom; instead, it randomly selects 11 judges.
Eight of the judges in this case were appointed by Democratic presidents, prompting many to predict that the court will reverse its earlier decision that requiring gun owners to prove why they need to carry a gun in public “amounted to a destruction of the Second Amendment right.”
“The odds are stacked against us,” said Chuck Michel, lawyer for the lead plaintiff in one of the cases, Ed Peruta.
Here’s a look at how each of the 11 judges has ruled on gun-related cases in the past, starting with the two judges who were on opposite sides of the court’s initial rulings in the cases now before them.
Judge Sidney Thomas
Thomas, 61, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and is now the court’s chief judge. Thomas didn’t ask any questions during oral arguments last week. As one of two judges on the panel who already had heard the case, he’s expected to once again vote to preserve the state’s ability to deny concealed carry applicants who don’t demonstrate “good cause.” The vague term is interpreted differently by county sheriffs around the state, with some granting permits to those who claim self-defense and others requiring that applicants provide documented threats to their safety.
Thomas wrote the court’s dissenting opinion last year in a 2-1 decision in favor of Peruta. In his 48-page opinion, Thomas argued that regulating guns in public did not interfere with the Second Amendment and that the history of doing so dates back to the early 1800s. Thomas received his law degree from the University of Montana. He taught law at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where he was a partner at a law firm.
Judge Consuelo Callahan
Callahan, 65, is the other judge who was part of the court’s original decision in the Peruta case early last year. She is expected to again vote in favor of Peruta. Callahan was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003. She was born in Palo Alto, California, and received her law degree from the University of the Pacific. She spent nearly three decades in various positions with San Joaquin County government, including as deputy district attorney and a county judge.
Callahan questioned the state’s right to intervene now in the case on behalf of San Diego County, repeatedly asking state Solicitor General Edward DuMont during oral arguments last week why the state wasn’t involved in the Peruta case before it was heard on appeal. At one point, she asked the lawyer representing Yolo County in the Prieto case what the government’s interest was in regulating concealed carry permits.
“Why is this so dangerous?” Callahan asked.
The other nine judges who will decide the case are:
Judge Carlos Bea
Bea, 81, is the second of three judges on the panel nominated by Bush, in 2003. Bea concurred with a 9th Circuit decision in 2013 that found it constitutional to bar people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning a gun.
Bea graduated from Stanford University, where he received his law degree in 1958. He spent more than 30 years in private practice before becoming a judge for the San Francisco Superior Court.
Judge William Fletcher
Fletcher, nominated by Clinton in 1995, has twice ruled that fully automatic machine guns are not protected by the Second Amendment. He joined fellow 9th Circuit Judge Barry Silverman in an unpublished 2013 decision that found no violation of the Second Amendment in charging a convicted felon with possession of a gun when the gun in the house belonged to the felon’s spouse.
Fletcher, 70, graduated from Yale Law School. He was a Navy lieutenant and worked as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan before teaching law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Judge Susan Graber
Nominated by Clinton in 1997, Graber has joined numerous opinions rejecting Second Amendment claims. In a 2010 decision, she said a landmark Supreme Court case from two years earlier that cemented the right to own a gun in the home did nothing to change the legal definition of “self-defense.”
Graber, 65, graduated from Yale Law School. She worked in private practice in New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon before she became an associate justice for the Oregon Supreme Court.
Judge Margaret McKeown
McKeown, another Clinton nominee in 1997, joined an unpublished opinion in 2014 that upheld a prohibition on gun ownership because of a juvenile conviction.
McKeown received her law degree from Georgetown University. She worked in private practice in Seattle and served as a special assistant to the Department of the Interior’s secretary.
Judge John Owens
Owens is the panel’s most recent addition, nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013. Owens is the only one of the 11 judges who does not appear to have ruled on any cases directly related to the Second Amendment.
At 43, Owens also is the youngest on the panel. He has deep roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, having graduated from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. He once worked as a marketing assistant for the Golden State Warriors.
Judge Richard Paez
Paez was nominated by Clinton in 1999. He ruled in 2010 that sawed-off shotguns were dangerous and unusual weapons and in a 2008 case found that the Second Amendment is limited and does not protect felons, machine guns or short-barreled rifles.
Paez, 68, worked as an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance, the Western Center on Law & Poverty and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. He also received his law degree from UC Berkeley.
Judge Harry Pregerson
Pregerson was nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and is the oldest judge on the panel at 91. Pregerson wrote a 2013 decision that upheld a law prohibiting gun ownership by those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Pregerson was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marines and, like many of his fellow judges at the 9th Circuit, graduated from UC Berkeley. He worked in private practice in Southern California before serving as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
Judge Barry Silverman
Silverman wrote an unpublished decision in 2013 about guns owned by felons’ spouses. Silverman also ruled in two other cases that prohibiting a felon from possessing a gun does not violate the Second Amendment.
Silverman, 63, was nominated by Clinton in 1997. He received his law degree from Arizona State University. He spent time as an assistant prosecutor for the city of Phoenix and later worked as a superior court judge and magistrate for the U.S. district court of Arizona.
Judge Randy Smith
Smith, a Bush nominee in 2007, was vocal during last week’s oral arguments, quizzing lawyers for both sides about how he should interpret concealed carry regulations, given that California largely prohibits the open permitless carry of guns. In a 2012 case, Smith ruled that mental health issues were sufficient reason to deny access to guns.
Smith, 65, received his undergraduate and law degrees from Brigham Young University. He was a professor at Boise State University and continues to teach at Idaho State University.