Lambert et al. v. Benson et al.
Open Carry in Polling Places
On Friday, October 16, 2020 just two weeks before the 2020 General Election, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a directive to the state’s clerks banning the open carry of firearms in polling places. The order was not promulgated per the Administrative Procedures Act and lacked statutory authority. Benson indicated the blanket ban on open carry was necessary to protect against voter intimidation despite the state already having existing laws prohibiting voter intimidation and brandishing of firearms. Benson was assisted in drafting the order by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
In the days that immediately followed, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police as well as numerous county sheriffs and local law enforcement agencies stated they would not enforce the ban. Consequently, Nessel indicated the Michigan State Police would enforce it.
On Thursday, October 22, 2020, three state firearm organizations: the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, Michigan Open Carry, Inc., and Michigan Gun Owners along with Tom Lambert, the recent past-president of Michigan Open Carry, Inc. [PLAINTIFFS] filed suit against Benson, Nessel, and the director of the Michigan State Police [DEFENDANTS] in the Michigan Court of Claims. The suit was consolidated with a similar suit filed the same day by Robert Davis of Highland Park against Benson.
The Plantiffs’ case was funded voluntarily through donations from individual gun owners. The Defendants’ case was funded involuntarily by Michigan taxpayers. A number of organizations including the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the National Rifle Association indicated support for the Plaintiffs through press releases. The ACLU and NAACP indicated their support for the Defendants as did several Democratic attorneys general from other states.
On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, the Michigan Court of Claims, after oral arguments, ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs, granting a preliminary injunction and enjoining enforcement of the directive.
On Thursday, October 29, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied Defendants’ leave to appeal. Defendants immediately appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court requesting a decision by 10 a.m. on Monday, November 2, 2020. The Michigan Supreme Court rejected the appeal through silence.