An attorney for state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, says he’s confident a final judgment against Illinois’ gun ban issued by a Macon County judge Friday is statewide pending an expected appeal from the state.
Gov. J.B. Pritzer enacted the ban on certain semi-automatic weapons and magazines over certain capacities on Jan. 10. Two weeks after the ban was in effect, lawsuits were filed in federal- and state-level courts.
Macon County Judge Rodney Forbes ruled the state’s gun ban and registry unconstitutional.
“The Court is bound to apply the appellate court’s holdings to plaintiffs’ identical equal protection claim in this case,” Forbes said.
The case concluded in Macon County Friday had a temporary restraining order in place barring the state from enforcing the law against named plaintiffs. It is separate from three other cases brought by attorney Thomas DeVore in Effingham and White counties. DeVore’s cases, which were consolidated by the Illinois Supreme Court, also have temporary restraining orders in place but only for named plaintiffs. .
DeVore’s initial Effingham County case secured a TRO on several procedural issues and on an argument the law violates equal protections for exempting certain professions in security and law enforcement. The state appealed and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the TRO, but only for the equal protections argument. That led to a cascade of three other TROs to be issued, including for the Macon County case that also dealt with the equal protections argument.
“Further, equal protection and special legislation claims ‘are judged by the same standard,’ … so the Court is also bound to apply those holdings to plaintiffs’ special legislation claim in this case,” Forbes’ order said Friday. “Defendants argue that the [Effingham County case upheld by appellate court] is wrongly decided for multiple reasons but acknowledge that the Court is bound to apply it. For these reasons, the Court enters final judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”
Before the order was signed, Stocks explained his understanding of its impact.
“A judgment that a law is unconstitutional we submit would be void as if it never existed and it would be unenforceable in all applications and in all respects that would mean statewide,” Stocks told The Center Square. “The state is not going to concede that point but the order will have its legal impact.”
Stocks said there needs to be finality to the question so there isn’t “chaos” around the question of if the law is in effect or not.
“If a law is unconstitutional, it’s unconditional, and I would not want to be in the position of any law enforcement ever enforcing a law that’s been adjudicated unconstitutional because their insurance carrier for [civil action for deprivation of rights liability] is going to be doing handstands and flips,” Stocks said. “The state needs to move this quickly … because of that particular question and we need to get it resolved.”
Messages seeking comment from the Illinois Attorney General and Pritzker’s office weren’t immediately returned. It’s expected they’ll file an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.