Bonner County v. Sandpoint – Update on the Firearms Festival Lawsuit
There was a hearing today in the Bonner County v. Sandpoint case.
The subject of the hearing was supposed to be arguments for the dueling motions from both sides for summary judgment.
Instead, the judge raised the question of whether there was a justiciable issue before the court since the 2020 Festival has been canceled, and there is not yet a lease for the 2021 season. He asked, and the parties agreed to file briefings on that narrow question by July 24. While he admitted the issue is an interesting “academic issue” and is of great concern to the citizens of Sandpoint, Bonner County and even the whole state of Idaho, he expressed reluctance for the judiciary to weigh in on this particular Bonner County case, given the cancellation of the 2020 Festival.
Attorney Erblund for the City: “Certainly that would be the hope of the city to have a lease with the Festival in 2021.”
Judge Lansing Haynes: “The court is a bit concerned about the situation to the extent that, although this is an academically interesting issue, and this is an issue of great importance, I think, to the citizens of Bonner County, and to the citizens of Sandpoint and to the citizens of the state of Idaho in general, this court is concerned about acting on this issue, when there is an issue before the court of whether there really is a justiciable issue. My proposal in the matter, and I am not meaning to delay it further, but because there’s no Festival for 2020, is to request the parties to submit whatever further briefings they believe appropriate regarding the narrow issue of justiciability, if that’s the word, on which the court can render a declaratory judgment on the narrow situation of the suspending or the canceling of the 2020 Festival, and the lack of a lease between the city and the Festival for any event in 2021”.
“This court is very concerned about acting on an issue that is not squarely before it, even one of great interest and even one of interesting academic value. But if there’s not a 2020 Festival, should I be making a decision at all?”
Attorney Clemmons for the County “I do think that this controversy is not going away, nor are the facts that are in controversy going to change. The city is planning to go forward with the lease, and they are planning to allow the Festival to ban guns”.
Attorney Erblund “I share the court’s concern with the overall argument of justiciability, even if there was going to be a Festival in 2020 based on the lease that was entered into. It is a continued misstatement for counsel to say that the city is allowing the Festival to ban guns. That is simply argument, and there is no factual basis to it.”
Judge Lansing Haynes then directed counsel to file briefings on the question of justiciability no later than the close of the day July 24, 2020. “I just worry about the court acting on an issue that may or may not squarely before it. It is my profound belief that courts should not do things unless they are called to do it. I am not certain about that, and I just need to hear more briefings.” He particularly noted that he was prepared today to hear the arguments for the city’s motion to dismiss based on the lack of standing for the sheriff, “This court has prepared itself, in particular, for the city’s initial petition that there’s no standing for the sheriff of Bonner County and that this is not a justiciable issue, and I had prepared for that in the belief that there was a 2020 lease for the Festival at Sandpoint that would take place in August 2020. I had not particularly prepared myself for the eventuality that that Festival would be canceled and that there is a probability of a new lease between the city and the Festival in 2021. That raises some concerns about the court addressing this without further briefings. There is not a current lease before the court, only an expected lease at another time.”
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