A group of Pillsbury lawyers teamed up with long-time pro bono partner DV LEAP to submit an amicus brief which contributed to a 4-3 victory in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The case, State ex rel. Suwalski v. Peeler, involved a court of common pleas order purporting to restore gun rights to the ex-husband of a victim of domestic violence, despite the federal Gun Control Act barring him as a result of his domestic violence conviction from possessing guns. The victim had filed an opposition to her abuser’s petition for restoration of gun rights, and when the state court issued the order restoring his access to guns, she petitioned the Ohio Court of Appeals for a writ of prohibition. The court of appeals granted the writ of prohibition, and the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, affirmed that extraordinary relief.

The opinion can be found here.

San Francisco litigation partner Bruce Ericson led the amicus brief efforts, with a cross-office team of Katherine Danial, Alton Hare, Jeetander Dulani, Julia Judish, Kevin Fong, and former litigation senior associate Charrise Alexander. The Ohio firm Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP served as local counsel on a pro bono basis, thanks to the support of firm alum Greg Phillips. 

Ericson noted that “the opinion protects survivors of domestic violence from attempts by their abusers to undermine federal gun safety laws—and, in particular, the federal firearms disability imposed on people convicted of domestic violence by 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9)—via proceedings in state court.” 

DV LEAP stated that it was thrilled with the result and praised the “awesome work” of the Pillsbury team.

DV LEAP—the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project—was founded in 2003 to protect domestic violence victims and their children, with a particular focus on the process of appealing unjust trial court outcomes. Relatively few victims of abuse are able to access the appellate courts, whether due to high monetary costs or the limited number of lawyers who possess the requisite expertise. Through staunch advocacy, training, and strategic assistance to lawyers, courts, and other professionals, DV Leap provides a stronger voice for justice. For more information, visit www.dvleap.org.

For more information on Pillsbury’s involvement with DV LEAP, please see here, here and here

Notably, Pillsbury, with a team including Julia Judish and Kevin Fong, also represented DV LEAP on an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Voisine v. United States, which was another federal Gun Control Act case.  In a 2016 decision, the Supreme Court in Voisine addressed the interpretation and scope of the act’s provision barring anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a gun and held that the gun ban includes convictions for assault based on reckless conduct, regardless of state common law definitions of assault.