I've heard* some interesting news regarding Seegars v. Ashcroft, one of the cases challenging the D.C. gun ban: The appellate panel in the D.C. Circuit will consist of Judges Sentelle and Tatel, and Senior Judge Williams. (Biographies here.)
Sentelle: I have good reason to believe that he adheres to the individual right (that is, the correct) view of the Second Amendment. And considering how outrageously onerous the D.C. law is, I can't see how any individual right adherent could possibly vote to uphold it. So count Sentelle as one vote for the good guys.
Tatel: A Clinton appointee, and I see nothing in his biography that leads me to suspect that he'd be willing to deviate from the liberal orthodoxy on the Second Amendment; viz., that it protects only a collective right. Of course he could surprise us, as Judge Pregerson did in the denial of rehearing en banc in Silveira. But I'm not holding my breath. Count Tatel as a vote for the bad guys.
All I know of Williams is that he's a Reagan appointee. Based on that, my guess is that he'll at least be open to an individual right interpretation. However, that's a very tentative guess; being Republican-appointed doesn't necessarily indicate one's views on this particular issue, and Reagan appointees have voted against gun owners in the past. (E.g., Judge Charles R. Simpson in NRA v. Buckles (6th Cir. 2002).) Williams likely will be the swing vote. If anyone has any relevant information about Judge Williams, please forward it.
Overall, I give the good guys a slight edge based on what little I know of these judges -- but that could change dramatically based on new information.
This should be interesting.
*I also called the Civil Docket Clerk at the D.C. Circuit,and asked who'd been assigned to the panel. 202-216-7300.
UPDATE: Clayton Cramer reminds us that Seegars would have to go to the Supreme Court after the D.C. Circuit. But not really; the Supremes might continue to duck the issue. When a federal statute applicable to the entire nation is struck down, the Supremes have a strong motive to review the case; after all, we can't very well have two different sets of federal criminal law, one for people in the Fifth Circuit and one for those in the Ninth Circuit. But the statute in the case at bar affects only the District, so striking it down wouldn't create that problem, and thus the Supremes would have less incentive to review it. But even if the Supremes didn't review the case we would at least have one good federal appellate precedent in addition to Emerson, and we'd be rid of one really oppressive law.
If the panel did vote "our" way in Seegars, my more immediate concern would be an en banc reversal. But even if that happened, a win at the panel level would still be a step in the right direction. No federal appellate court has ever before struck down a statute on Second Amendment grounds, even temporarily. If it were to happen it would be extremely encouraging, even if the decision were later reversed. Baby steps . . . baby steps.
Countertop reports on one previous Williams decision that seems mildly encouraging. At least the man displays a little common sense, and a sense of justice.
UPDATE III: Triggerfinger thinks a win before the panel would only send the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. As I read the procedural posture of the case, he's partly right and partly wrong. There were three counts in the Seegars complaint. The district court held two of them to be non-justiciable; it seems to have reached the merits of the Second Amendment argument in the third. ("On the other hand, the Court finds that plaintiff Hailes’ challenge to the
requirement that she maintain a trigger lock on her shotgun is legally distinct from the plaintiffs’
other claims and therefore the Court had to analyze the scope and purpose of the Second
Amendment to determine whether the D.C. Code § 7-2507.02 is unconstitutional.") So even if the panel affirms on the two non-justiciable counts, we should get a substantive ruling on the Second Amendment in the third.
UPDATE IV: Reader Dan Schmutter e-mails this article that mentions Judge Williams. I'm not sure how relevant it is, but others may see something significant here.