Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

July 2017 Archives

In Washington, DC, the right to carry a gun in public has been the center of much debate and controversy for several decades. However, over the last several years, DC has been faced with challenges to the safety restrictions imposed on gun ownership.

Just this week, one of those challenges was actually successful in dismantling a statute that made it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in the District without a permit. The permits would only be provided to individuals who could show a compelling need or a good reason for being allowed to carry a concealed handgun. For instance, carrying valuables or cash for work, being targeted for violence in the past, or needing to protect a vulnerable family member, all could potentially qualify a person for a permit.

Emma Sulkowicz gained notoriety in 2014 when she began carrying a 50-pound mattress around Columbia's campus as part of her senior art thesis and to protest the university's handling of her sexual assault allegations against fellow student Paul Nungesser. Nungesser was found not guilty of misconduct, and police declined to press charges, but Sulkowicz continued her protest of Nungesser's presence on campus.

Nungesser eventually sued the school, first for failing to protect him from Sulkowicz's protest, then, after that case was dismissed, for violating Title IX, claiming that the school's policies amounted to "sex bias in disciplining him for an alleged sexual assault." Although that lawsuit was also dismissed, Columbia settled with Nungesser, though Sulkowicz was not party to the settlement and the terms remain confidential.

A ruling on a pair of cases out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, affirmed a private individual's right to record police performing their duties in public. The cases of Amanda Geraci and Richard Fields both involve law enforcement officers retaliating against them for recording officers performing their duties in public.

While the federal district court handling these two cases found that neither Geraci, nor Fields, were protected by the First Amendment, the Third Circuit was quick to correct the lower court on their mistaken interpretation. Notably, the lower federal court was seemingly going rogue with their interpretation.