2009 Press Releases

7.2.2009: ACLU Sues District Attorney For Return of Firearm

Today the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana filed suit against the City of New Orleans, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, and Chief of Police Warren Riley, for refusing to return a firearm to its lawful owner. Erroll Houston, Jr., a New Orleans resident and painting contractor, is licensed to carry a gun and sometimes does so to protect himself against crime in his neighborhood. On July 5, 2008, he was arrested. At the time of his arrest, the police confiscated his firearm. About a month later, the District Attorney refused the charges, at which time Mr. Houston attempted to get his firearm back. The New Orleans Police Department told Mr. Houston that the gun must be released by the District Attorneys' Office. Despite repeated requests, the District Attorney has refused to return it to Mr. Houston, citing a policy prohibiting the return of firearms after the arrest of the owner.

"For the government to keep property that someone is legally entitled to own, there must be good cause, and the owner is entitled to due process," said ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman. "Mr. Houston has done nothing wrong. There are no criminal charges against him. His firearm, which he is and was entitled to carry, has been confiscated for no reason. It is past time for NOPD and the District Attorney to return it."

While gun ownership is protected under the Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions, Esman went on: "This is not just about Mr. Houston's firearm. This is about the government keeping property that it has no right to retain. In the United States, we expect our property to be respected by our officials." Mr. Houston has alleged violations of his Second Amendment rights and corresponding rights under the Louisiana Constitution, as well as his due process rights.

The lawsuit, Houston v. City of New Orleans, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Erroll Houston is represented by ACLU Foundation of Louisiana Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann.

Read the complaint in full at: http://www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Houston_v_CityofNO_Complaint.pdf