Sanders v. United States, 083019 FED4, 18-1931

Docket Nº:18-1931, 18-1932, 18-1933,, 18-1935, 18-1936, 18-1937, 18-1938, 18-1939, 18-1940, 18-1941, 18-1942, 18-1943, 18-1944, 18-1945, 18-1946, 18-1948
Opinion Judge:GREGORY, CHIEF JUDGE
Party Name:FELICIA SANDERS, individually and as Legal Custodian for K.M., a minor, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant-Appellee, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant. JENNIFER PINCKNEY, Personal Representative of the Estate of Clementa Pinckney, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ...
Attorney:William Walter Wilkins, NEXSEN PRUET, Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellants. Thomas George Ward, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. Benjamin Softness, KELLOGG, HANSEN, TODD, FIGEL & FREDERICK, P.L.L.C., Washington, D.C. for Amicus Curiae. Kirsten E. Small, N...
Judge Panel:Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges. AGEE, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
Case Date:August 30, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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FELICIA SANDERS, individually and as Legal Custodian for K.M., a minor, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant-Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

JENNIFER PINCKNEY, Personal Representative of the Estate of Clementa Pinckney, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant-Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

JENNIFER PINCKNEY, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

JENNIFER PINCKNEY, individually and as Parent, Natural Guardian and Next Friend of M.P., a minor, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

TYRONE SANDERS, Personal Representative of the Estate of Tywanza Sanders, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

FELICIA SANDERS, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

ANTHONY THOMPSON, as Co-Personal Representative of the Estate of Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson; KEVIN SINGLETON, as Co-Personal Representative of the Estate of Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, Plaintiffs - Appellants,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

POLLY SHEPPARD, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

WALTER B. JACKSON, Personal Representative of the Estate of Susie Jackson, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

LAURA MOORE, Personal Representative of the Estate of Ethel Lance, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

DANIEL L. SIMMONS, JR., as Personal Representative of the Estate of Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

SHALISA COLEMAN, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

ANTHONY THOMPSON, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

ARTHUR STEPHEN HURD, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Cynthia Graham Hurd, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

ARTHUR STEPHEN HURD, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

BETHANE MIDDLETON-BROWN, Personal Representative of the Estate of DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Plaintiff - Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant - Appellee,

BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

Nos. 18-1931, 18-1932, 18-1933,, 18-1935, 18-1936, 18-1937, 18-1938, 18-1939, 18-1940, 18-1941, 18-1942, 18-1943, 18-1944, 18-1945, 18-1946, 18-1948

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 30, 2019

Argued: May 7, 2019

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. Richard Mark Gergel, District Judge. (2:16-cv-02356-RMG; 2:16-cv- 02350-RMG; 2:16-cv-02351-RMG; 2:16-cv-02352-RMG; 2:16-cv-02354-RMG; 2:16-cv-02355-RMG; 2:16-cv-02357-RMG; 2:16-cv-02358-RMG; 2:16-cv-02359- RMG; 2:16-cv-02360-RMG; 2:16-cv-02378-RMG; 2:16-cv-02405-RMG; 2:16-cv- 02406-RMG; 2:16-cv-02407-RMG; 2:16-cv-02409-RMG; 2:16-cv-02746-RMG)

ARGUED:

William Walter Wilkins, NEXSEN PRUET, Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellants.

Thomas George Ward, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Benjamin Softness, KELLOGG, HANSEN, TODD, FIGEL & FREDERICK, P.L.L.C., Washington, D.C. for Amicus Curiae.

ON BRIEF:

Kirsten E. Small, NEXSEN PRUET, Greenville, South Carolina, for Appellants

Felicia Sanders, Jennifer Pinckney, Tyrone Sanders, Anthony Thompson, Arthur Stephen Hurd, Polly Sheppard, Walter B. Jackson, Laura Moore, Daniel L. Simmons, Jr., Shalisa Coleman, Kevin Singleton, and Bethane Middleton-Brown. Gedney M. Howe, III, Alvin J. Hammer, GEDNEY M. HOWE, III, PA, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants

Felicia Sanders, Jennifer Pinckney, Anthony Thompson, Tyrone Sanders, Polly Sheppard, Walter B. Jackson, Laura Moore, Bethane Middleton-Brown, and Kevin Singleton. Andrew J. Savage, III, SAVAGE LAW FIRM, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants

Felicia Sanders, Shalisa Coleman, Anthony Thompson, Tyrone Sanders, Polly Sheppard, Walter B. Jackson, Laura Moore, Kevin Singleton, and Bethane Middleton-Brown. W. Mullins McLeod, Jr., Jacqueline LaPan Edgerton, MCLEOD LAW GROUP LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants

Arthur Stephen Hurd, Anthony Thompson, and Shalisa Coleman. Carl E. Pierce, II, Joseph C. Wilson, IV, PIERCE, SLOAN, WILSON, KENNEDY & EARLY LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellant

Daniel L. Simmons, Jr. S. Randall Hood, MCGOWAN, HOOD & FELDER, LLC, Rock Hill, South Carolina; Sen. Gerald Malloy, MALLOY LAW FIRM, Hartsville, South Carolina, for Appellants

Jennifer Pinckney and Anthony Thompson. J. Stephen Schmutz, Charleston, South Carolina; David F. Aylor, LAW OFFICES OF DAVID AYLOR, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellants

Anthony Thompson, Arthur Stephen Hurd and Shalisa Coleman. Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Mark B. Stern, Joshua M. Salzman, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Jonathan E. Lowy, Mariel Goetz, Joshua Scharff, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE, Washington, D.C.; Scott H. Angstreich, KELLOGG, HANSEN, TODD, FIGEL & FREDERICK, P.L.L.C., Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

GREGORY, CHIEF JUDGE

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof entered Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire, murdering nine worshipers who had gathered for Bible study: Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, and Susie Jackson. In the weeks following this tragedy, James Comey, then the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), issued a public statement explaining that Roof was prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm and that he was able to purchase the Glock 41 semiautomatic pistol he used in the attacks only because of lapses in the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS"). As Director Comey stated, "Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of so many innocent people at the Emanuel AME church, should not have been allowed to purchase the gun he allegedly used that evening."1

These consolidated cases concern the lawsuits brought by survivors and the estates of the deceased victims ("Plaintiffs") seeking to hold the United States liable for negligently performing the Roof background check-a background check that, if performed properly, no one disputes would have prevented Roof from purchasing the firearm he used to commit this atrocity. Following jurisdictional discovery, the district court dismissed the Plaintiffs' claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on two independent grounds. First, the district court held that the Government was immune from liability under the discretionary function exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). Second, the court concluded that the Government enjoyed immunity under the Brady Act's immunity provision, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(6). The Plaintiffs now appeal, contending that the district court erred on both grounds.

We agree. Because neither provision affords the Government immunity in this case, we reverse the district court's order granting the Government's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

1. The Brady Act and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System

Federal law prohibits certain individuals from buying, owning, or possessing a firearm, including anyone who has been convicted of a felony or "is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance." 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), (3). In 1993, Congress enacted...

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