- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2008

Acting D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles yesterday said attorneys have filed the District’s brief defending the city’s gun ban before the Supreme Court, and he named a new lead lawyer to argue the case.

We have the best team that could be assembled to argue this very important case, Mr. Nickles said at a press conference yesterday with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. I exercised my judgment, and this team is superb.

The city’s legal brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case was filed yesterday. The case marks the first time in 70 years the Supreme Court will consider the Second Amendment.

The brief’s three-pronged argument says the Constitution protects only the rights of militias to bear firearms and not the rights of individuals. It says the amendment was only meant to restrict Congress from disarming state militias and does not constrain states from enacting firearms regulations.

Attorneys will also argue the District’s gun laws do not infringe on the right to bear arms in part because the Constitution permits reasonable restrictions on firearms.

Arguments in the case are expected to take place in March, with a ruling by the high court possible by June.

I think all eyes are going to be on Washington, D.C., as we go forward in the District of Columbia v. Heller before the Supreme Court later this year, said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nickles said Walter E. Dellinger, a former acting U.S. solicitor general who has argued 17 cases before the Supreme Court, will lead the city’s effort in defending the gun ban, which was overturned in a lower court ruling last year.

Mr. Dellinger will be assisted by Thomas Goldstein of the Akin Gump law firm and D.C. Solicitor General Todd Kim, who already have been working on the case.

Robert Long, chairman of the Supreme Court litigation group at Covington and Burling — the law firm Mr. Nickles worked for before joining the District — also has joined the effort.

The law firms assisting the city are working pro bono, Mr. Nickles said.

Our goal is to see that this law, important to the District, is sustained, Mr. Dellinger said, And we will argue multiple approaches which we think the court should consider in sustaining the validity of this law.

Mr. Nickles, who has served as Mr. Fenty’s general counsel, called the legal team the superheroes of Supreme Court practice.

But he has been criticized for removing respected lawyer Alan B. Morrison, the case’s former lead counsel and main author of the city’s legal brief, and for the resignation of Linda Singer, who quit amid reports that Mr. Nickles had intruded on her office’s legal turf.

Mr. Nickles will not legally become the city’s acting attorney general until Mrs. Singer’s resignation takes effect today. Yesterday, Mr. Fenty praised his leadership and his decisions.

I am extremely confident in his ability to get the job done, not just in this case but in so many others, Mr. Fenty said.

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