A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

By Burt Rose

The UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT has decided the case of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JAMES FRANCIS BARTON, JR., Appellant, No. 09-2211, 2011 WL 753859, an appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 07-cr-00376) before District Judge Alan N. Bloch. The panel was composed of Judges HARDIMAN, GREENAWAY, JR. and NYGAARD. David B. Chontos was counsel for Barton.

Barton was indicted on two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) for being a felon in possession of a firearm. It was undisputed that Barton had prior felony convictions for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and for receipt of a stolen firearm. Barton moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) violated his fundamental right to “use arms in defense of hearth and home,” recognized by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 635 (2008), as the “core” principle embodied in the Second Amendment.

Judge Hardiman wrote that Heller requires that courts presume, under most circumstances, that felon dispossession statutes regulate conduct which is unprotected by the Second Amendment. However, Barton argued that the government may not strip him of his fundamental right to use a weapon for the purpose of defending “hearth and home.” The Panel disagreed and wrote that a felony conviction disqualifies an individual from asserting his fundamental right to “defense of hearth and home” and that denying felons the right to possess firearms is entirely consistent with the purpose of the Second Amendment. Therefore the judgment of sentence was affirmed.

Free legal research available on State and Federal court appointed cases from the Student Research Center. http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch?appNum=4

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