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Judge Throws Out NYC & DA Motions in NYC Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Print E-mail

Sept. 11, 2012: In a serious blow to the attempts by New York City and NYC District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. to derail Knife Rights' federal civil rights lawsuit against them, U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones on September 10 denied their motions for judgment on the pleadings and to dismiss the case. The ruling comes on the heels of a decision by Federal Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis on September 7 allowing victimized NYC retailer Native Leather to join the case as a plaintiff (announced yesterday - See "Read More" below).

Together, these rulings affirm that Knife Rights' lawsuit is valid on its face and will proceed to trial.

"Despite their attempts to make this case go away, NYC and DA Vance will now be held fully accountable in federal court by Knife Rights for their disgraceful attempts to demonize the most widely-owned pocket knives in America as contraband, and to intimidate honest knife retailers into making six-figure forced 'contributions' to the City, under threat of criminal penalty, in order to avoid prosecution," said Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter.

Click on "Read More>>>>" for additional details including Judge Jones' decision and order.

Download Judge Jones' opinion and order here: http://bit.ly/ODNGi4

Ritter continued, "The dismissal of these motions vindicates our position that there are real constitutional issues involved. The City cannot simply expand the state law to persecute knife owners and retailers to suit their own ends."

"Suing the largest city in the U.S. is not something to be done lightly, but it is essential to our freedoms that New York not be allowed to trample on our rights, and Knife Rights has stepped up to the plate to defend freedom," said Ritter. "Perhaps now DA Vance will recognize that this lawsuit is not going away and come to his senses instead of continuing to waste taxpayer resources victimizing law-abiding citizens who simply possess a practical tool (a common pocket knife), and the honest retailers who sell these tools."

Sept. 10, 2012: Federal Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis has granted Knife Rights' motion to amend its federal civil rights lawsuit against NYC and NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., adding as plaintiffs New York knife retailer, Native Leather, and Knife Rights Foundation.

Native Leather was one of the retailers originally targeted by Vance on charges of selling illegal gravity knives and switchblades (one-hand opening and assisted-opening folding knives). Native Leather agreed to cease selling the so-called gravity knives, surrender their stock of the knives that were identified by the DA as gravity knives and made a payment to the DA to avoid prosecution. Adding Native Leather as a plaintiff allows us to provide the court with an example of a retailer victimized by the DA's misinterpretation and misapplication of state law to knife retailers.

Click here to read Judge Ellis' opinion and order.

May 23, 2012: Knife Rights today announced it has bolstered support for its Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. with two additional plaintiffs included in an amended complaint submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

New plaintiff Native Leather, Ltd., is one of the New York retailers that DA Vance accused of selling illegal knives. Like other retailers who were threatened with prosecution (Home Depot and Ace Hardware among them), Native Leather surrendered much of its knife inventory, made substantial monetary payments, and stopped selling a number of common pocket knives (mischaracterized by the City as "gravity knives" and "switchblades") to avoid the DA's wrath. Because of the vagueness and inconsistency in the way the City and DA interpret state law, Native Leather still has no definite means of determining whether the DA's office will once again allege that its knives are illegal in the future.

"District Attorney Vance's politically motivated assault on, and continued threat to Native Leather, a small, law-abiding retailer simply trying to make a living in New York City, is unconscionable " said Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter. "I applaud Native Leather for joining our lawsuit and showing the courage of its convictions in standing up to DA Vance's bullying tactics."

Also added as a plaintiff is Knife Rights Foundation, Inc.

The lawsuit challenges New York City's and District Attorney Vance's attempt to mischaracterize the most widely-owned pocket knives in America as contraband. The case seeks a judicial determination that the New York State laws regarding "switchblades" and "gravity knives" are unconstitutionally vague as applied to these common pocket knives with a bias towards closure. Knife Rights intgends to stop New York City officials from abusing this vague state law to make questionable arrests of law-abiding citizens carrying common pocket knives, and coerce knife retailers into making huge payments to avoid prosecution.

"One-hand opening pocket knives are legal tools, used and carried every day by millions of law-abiding professionals, tradesmen and sportsmen for work and recreation," said Ritter. "Shame on D.A. Vance for demonizing common tools and turning honest citizens into criminals for purely political ends."

The original plaintiffs remain in the case: Knife Rights, Inc. and two private citizens (John Copeland, an internationally acclaimed artist, and Pedro Perez, an artist and fine art dealer, both New York City residents). The defendants remaining are the New York County DA and the City of New York itself. Knife Rights is represented by attorney David D. Jensen, Esq. of New York.

The Memorandum of Law in Support of the Amended Complaint and a red-lined copy of the Amended Complaint can be downloaded at: http://www.KnifeRights.org/KRvNYamendedcomplaint.pdf


January 20, 2012: Knife Rights filed its response to New York City's Motion to Dismiss in our Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against New York City and DA Vance. As with the DA's earlier motion, the City's motion was expected and is pro forma in a case such as this. Much of the City's motion simply aped the DA's, but they did manage to come up with their own ludicrous interpretation of the New York state statute on gravity knives. As before with the DA's motion, the Knife Rights legal team, led by attorney David Jensen, have sliced and diced the City's absurd arguments, laying waste to their arrogant, ill-conceived and baseless motion.

To quote from the introduction in Knife Rights' papers: "The City seeks judgment on the pleadings for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. To do so, the City embarks on a fanciful journey that selectively ignores the extensive evidence ...Plaintiffs have provided..."

"This is an unconstitutionally vague application of the gravity knife law. The gravity knife law does not provide adequate notice that knives that are designed and intended not to open by gravity or centrifugal force might be prohibited, and the operative test employed by the NYPD is entirely subjective. It is literally possible for one knife to be simultaneously legal and illegal, and a person has no means of conforming his or her conduct to the law’s expectations.

The two documents make for interesting reading:

November 14, 2011: Knife Rights filed its response to NYC District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr's Motion to Dismiss in our Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against New York City and DA Vance. The DA's motion was expected and is pro forma in a case such as this. The Knife Rights legal team, led by attorney David Jensen, have done an exemplary job blowing the DA's arrogant, ill-conceived and baseless motion to pieces.

Click on "Read More>>>>" for additional details including copies of the DA's Motion and Knife Rights' Response.

To quote from the introduction: "Defendant District Attorney Vance (the "DA" or "DA Vance") seeks to dismiss the Complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. However, Plaintiffs clearly have standing because the DA's actions result in substantial impairments to Knife Rights' resources, and also because they impact the individual Plaintiffs' ability to purchase lawful knives. Moreover, the Complaint plainly states a claim, and consideration of the merits (as the DA implores) shows that the "standard" that Defendants use to apply the State laws at issue to common folding knives is wholly subjective and indeterminate. It is literally possible for one knife to be simultaneous legal and illegal, and a person has no means of conforming his or her conduct to the law's expectations. While the DA's motion necessarily fails because it relies on selectively construing the facts in the DA's favor, rather than in the Plaintiffs' favor (as Rule 12(b)(6) mandates), a consideration of the merits shows how far off the mark the DA's self-serving characterizations are."

The two documents make for interesting reading, if you are so inclined:

Bear in mind that each side is limited to 25 double-spaced pages in the body of the document, and the manner of doing so is strictly prescribed in many respects, so crafting a response is a challenge when there is so much that could be said, but only limited space to say it. A special thanks to those companies who have been major donors to the Sharper Future™ Legal Fund and who also submitted declarations in support of Knife Rights' standing as a plaintiff: Benchmade, Columbia River Knife & Tool, KA-BAR, KnifeWorks and Taylor Brands.

This is but the first step in the first round. There is a whole river of water to pass under this bridge and many hearings to be held as this lawsuit slowly works its way through the process. You can help support this effort to protect our rights with a tax-deductible contribution to the Sharper Future™ Legal Fund.

Knife Rights suggests that you comply with NYC code and never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times. If you are arrested for possession of an "illegal knife" in New York, please contact Knife Rights at: nycity@KnifeRights.org


October 23, 2011:It still isn't safe for honest law-abiding citizens with a perfectly legal knife in their pocket to walk the streets of New York City, or take the subway. Knife Rights' legal team continues to help new clients who have been arrested and continues to get their cases dismissed, the latest just last week. But, that still leaves these victims of NYC District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr's persecution out of pocket a good deal of money, their valuable time (to say nothing of sleepless nights) and the persecution continues. That's why we filed a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit back in June.

Knife Rights' lawsuit against DA Vance and the City of New York continues to move forward. Click on "Read More>>>>" for the latest publicly releasable details.

The State of New York has been dropped as a defendant after it determined that the events occurring in New York City are strictly a New York City issue, rather than an issue of state law. That is good for us.

Recently, the City filed its response to our Complaint, and as expected, DA Vance filed a motion to dismiss the suit. We are presently working to respond to the DA's motion.

The City does not appear to dispute the lawsuit's basic claim that NYPD officers are using New York's "gravity knife" law to prosecute possession of common and ordinary folding knives. As anticipated, it appears that both the City and the DA intend to argue that the "gravity knife" law encompasses one-hand-opening and assisted-opening folding knives, and hence, that the law is not "impermissibly vague" as we claim. That circular argument is no surprise; after all, that's the root of the lawsuit and those are the issues we are prepared to go to trial on.

A magistrate judge has been assigned, which will help move things along quicker (that being a relative term considering this is federal litigation) and Judge Ellis has scheduled a court conference for early November. We are hopeful that we will be able to begin discovery from the City and DA Vance after this conference. No doubt there will be potholes aplenty along this road, but that's how it works when you go toe to toe with one of the most powerful cities and DA in the country. We're up to the fight.

In the meantime, never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times. If you are arrested for possession of an "illegal knife" in New York, please contact Knife Rights at: nycity@KnifeRights.org

 
 
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