Defense Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 1–15–CV–372 RP.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
Writing for the CourtROBERT L. PITMAN, District Judge.
Citation121 F.Supp.3d 680
Parties DEFENSE DISTRIBUTED, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date04 August 2015
Docket NumberNo. 1–15–CV–372 RP.

121 F.Supp.3d 680

DEFENSE DISTRIBUTED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, et al., Defendants.

No. 1–15–CV–372 RP.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division.

Signed Aug. 4, 2015.


121 F.Supp.3d 686

Alan Gura, Gura & Possessky, PLLC, Alexandria, VA, David S. Morris, W. Thomas Jacks, Fish & Richardson, P.C., Austin, TX, Joshua Michael Blackman, Josh Blackman LLC, Houston, TX, Matthew A. Goldstein, Matthew A. Goldstein, PLLC, Washington, DC, William B. Mateja, Fish & Richardson, Dallas, TX, for Plaintiffs.

Eric J. Soskin, Stuart Justin Robinson, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC, Zachary Carl Richter, United States Attorney's Office, Austin, TX, for Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT L. PITMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, filed May 11, 2015 (Clerk's Dkt. # 7), Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction, filed May 11, 2015 (Clerk's Dkt. # 8) and the responsive pleadings thereto. The Court conducted a hearing on the motion on July 6, 2015. Having considered the motion, responsive pleadings, record in the case, and the applicable law, the Court is of the opinion that Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction should be denied. See FED. R. CIV. P. 65(b).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation ("SAF") bring this action against defendants the United States Department of State, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls ("DDTC"), and employees of the DDTC in their official and individual capacities, challenging implementation of regulations governing the "export" of "defense articles."

Under the Arms Export Control Act ("AECA"), "the President is authorized to control the import and the export of defense articles and defense services" and to "promulgate regulations for the import and export of such articles and services." 22 U.S.C. § 2778(a)(1). The AECA imposes both civil and criminal penalties for violation of its provisions and implementing regulations, including monetary fines and imprisonment. Id. § 2278(c) & (e). The President has delegated his authority to promulgate implementing regulations to the Secretary of State. Those regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulation ("ITAR"), are in turn administered by the DDTC and its employees. 22 C.F.R. 120.1(a).

The AECA directs that the "defense articles" designated under its terms constitute

121 F.Supp.3d 687

the United States "Munitions List." 22 U.S.C. § 2778(a)(1). The Munitions List "is not a compendium of specific controlled items," rather it is a "series of categories describing the kinds of items" qualifying as "defense articles." United States v. Zhen Zhou Wu, 711 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir.)cert. denied sub nom. Yufeng Wei v. United States, –––U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 365, 187 L.Ed.2d 160 (2013). Put another way, the Munitions List contains "attributes rather than names." United States v. Pulungan, 569 F.3d 326, 328 (7th Cir.2009) (explaining "an effort to enumerate each item would be futile," as market is constantly changing). The term "defense articles" also specifically includes "technical data recorded or stored in any physical form, models, mockups or other items that reveal technical data directly relating to items designated in" the Munitions List. 22 C.F.R. § 120.6

A party unsure about whether a particular item is a "defense article" covered by the Munitions List may file a "commodity jurisdiction" request with the DDTC. See 22 C.F.R. § 120.4 (describing process). The regulations state the DDTC "will provide a preliminary response within 10 working days of receipt of a complete request for commodity jurisdiction." Id. § 120.4(e). If a final determination is not provided after 45 days, "the applicant may request in writing to the Director, Office of Defense Trade Controls Policy that this determination be given expedited processing." Id.

According to Plaintiffs, Defense Distributed publishes files on the Internet as a means of fulfilling its primary missions to promote the right to keep and bear arms and to educate the public, as well as generating revenue. Specifically, in December 2012 Defense Distributed made available for free on the Internet privately generated technical information regarding a number of gun-related items (the "Published Files"). (Compl. ¶¶ 22–24). Plaintiffs allege that, on May 8, 2013, Defendants sent Defense Distributed a letter stating:

DTCC/END is conducting a review of technical data made publicly available by Defense Distributed through its 3D printing website, DEFCAD.org, the majority of which appear to be related to items in Category I of the [Munitions List]. Defense Distributed may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of the ITAR.

(Id. ¶ 25).

Plaintiffs state they promptly removed the Published Files from the Internet. Further, per instruction in the May 2013 letter, Plaintiffs submitted commodity jurisdiction requests covering the Published Files on June 21, 2013. According to Plaintiffs, they have not received a response to the requests from Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 26–29).

Plaintiffs further allege that, on September 25, 2014, Defense Distributed sent a request for prepublication approval for public release of files containing technical information on a machine named the "Ghost Gunner" that can be used to manufacture a variety of items, including gun parts (the "Ghost Gunner Files").1 Following resubmission of the request, on April 13, 2015, DDTC determined that the Ghost Gunner machine, including the software necessary to build and operate the

121 F.Supp.3d 688

Ghost Gunner machine, is not subject to ITAR, but that "software, data files, project files, coding, and models for producing a defense article, to include 80% AR–15 lower receivers, are subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of State in accordance with [ITAR]." (Id. ¶¶ 28–33).

In addition, Plaintiffs allege that since September 2, 2014, Defense Distributed has made multiple requests to DOPSR for prepublication review of certain computer-aided design ("CAD") files. In December 2014, DOPSR informed Defense Distributed that it refused to review the CAD files. The DOPSR letter directed Defense Distributed to the DDTC Compliance and Enforcement Division for further questions on public release of the CAD files. Defense Distributed has sought additional guidance on the authorization process, but to date, Defendants have not responded. (Id. ¶¶ 34–36).

Plaintiffs filed this action on April 29, 2015, raising five separate claims. Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that the imposition by Defendants of a prepublication approval requirement for "technical data" related to "defense articles" constitutes: (1) an ultra vires government action; (2) a violation of their rights to free speech under the First Amendment; (3) a violation of their right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment; and (4) a violation of their right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs also contend the violations of their constitutional rights entitled them to monetary damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). Plaintiffs now seek a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of any prepublication approval requirement against unclassified information under the ITAR, specifically including all files Defense Distributed has submitted for DOPSR review. The parties have filed responsive pleadings. The Court conducted a hearing on July 6, 2015 and the matter is now ripe for review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy and the decision to grant a preliminary injunction is to be treated as the exception rather than the rule. Valley v. Rapides Parish Sch. Bd., 118 F.3d 1047, 1050 (5th Cir.1997). The party seeking a preliminary injunction may be granted relief only if the moving party establishes: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat that failure to grant the injunction will result in irreparable injury; (3) that the threatened injury out-weighs any damage that the injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) that the injunction will not disserve the public interest. See Hoover v. Morales, 146 F.3d 304, 307 (5th Cir.1998) ; Wenner v. Texas Lottery Comm'n, 123 F.3d 321, 325 (5th Cir.1997) ; Cherokee Pump & Equip. Inc. v. Aurora Pump, 38 F.3d 246, 249 (5th Cir.1994). To show a substantial likelihood of success, "the plaintiff must present a prima facie case, but need not prove that he is entitled to summary judgment." Daniels Health Sciences, L.L.C. v. Vascular Health Sciences, L.L.C., 710 F.3d 579, 582 (5th Cir.2013). See also Janvey v. Alguire, 647 F.3d 585, 596 (5th Cir.2011) (same, citing CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER, MARY KAY KANE, 11A FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 2948.3 (2d ed. 1995) ("All courts agree that plaintiff must present a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • State v. United States Department of State, No. 20-35391
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 27, 2021
    ...Distributed, a private company intent on publishing 3D gun files on the internet. See Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State , 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 686–87 (W.D. Tex. 2015). In defending the lawsuit, DOS contended that Defense Distributed's files could be used to create "virtually undetecta......
  • Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 15–50759
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 20, 2016
    ...The district court capably summarized the facts in its memorandum opinion and order. See Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State , 121 F.Supp.3d 680, 686–88 (W.D. Tex. 2015). The facts set out in this opinion come largely from the district court's opinion and the parties' briefs.2 Plaintiff......
  • Distributed v. Def. Attorney Gen. of N.J., Nos. 19-1729 & 19-3182
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 25, 2020
    ...publish their files, but their motion for a preliminary injunction failed. Defense Distrib. v. U.S. Dep't of State (Def. Distrib. I ), 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 696, 701 (W.D. Tex. 2015), aff'd, 838 F.3d 451, 460 (5th Cir. 2016). Defense Distributed, SAF, and the State Department settled and agr......
  • San Antonio Firefighters' Ass'n v. City of San Antonio, Civil Action No. SA-18-CV-745-XR
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
    • September 1, 2019
    ...that an enactment is void for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined." Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't. of State , 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 700 (W.D. Tex. 2015) (citing Grayned v. City of Rockford , 408 U.S. 104, 108, 92 S.Ct. 2294, 33 L.Ed.2d 222 (1972) ). "[T]he void for vaguene......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • State v. United States Department of State, No. 20-35391
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 27, 2021
    ...Distributed, a private company intent on publishing 3D gun files on the internet. See Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State , 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 686–87 (W.D. Tex. 2015). In defending the lawsuit, DOS contended that Defense Distributed's files could be used to create "virtually undetecta......
  • Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State, No. 15–50759
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 20, 2016
    ...The district court capably summarized the facts in its memorandum opinion and order. See Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't of State , 121 F.Supp.3d 680, 686–88 (W.D. Tex. 2015). The facts set out in this opinion come largely from the district court's opinion and the parties' briefs.2 Plaintiff......
  • Distributed v. Def. Attorney Gen. of N.J., Nos. 19-1729 & 19-3182
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 25, 2020
    ...publish their files, but their motion for a preliminary injunction failed. Defense Distrib. v. U.S. Dep't of State (Def. Distrib. I ), 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 696, 701 (W.D. Tex. 2015), aff'd, 838 F.3d 451, 460 (5th Cir. 2016). Defense Distributed, SAF, and the State Department settled and agr......
  • San Antonio Firefighters' Ass'n v. City of San Antonio, Civil Action No. SA-18-CV-745-XR
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
    • September 1, 2019
    ...that an enactment is void for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined." Def. Distributed v. U.S. Dep't. of State , 121 F. Supp. 3d 680, 700 (W.D. Tex. 2015) (citing Grayned v. City of Rockford , 408 U.S. 104, 108, 92 S.Ct. 2294, 33 L.Ed.2d 222 (1972) ). "[T]he void for vaguene......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT