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Barred from proceeding with concealed-carry lawsuit against city, lawyer tries to take gun into city hall again

After judge rules suit dead, lawyer re-enacts encounter by John Lynch | October 21, 2022 at 3:18 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock City Hall is shown in this 2019 file photo.

Minutes after a Pulaski County Circuit judge ruled Thursday that lawyer Chris Corbitt had dropped his lawsuit, perhaps unintentionally, against the City of Little Rock, Corbitt re-enacted his encounter with authorities that led to the litigation by trying to take a gun into City Hall.

Corbitt of Conway was refused entry on Thursday, despite a concealed-carry license he said gives him the right to take the pistol with him. That's the same thing that happened in August 2021 when Corbitt first tried to test a new concealed carry law.

Two things have changed since that suit was filed. One thing was that City Attorney Tom Carpenter said in court Thursday that while the city can bar guns on municipal properties, it cannot enforce that prohibition with criminal charges, like trespass.

Carpenter and Corbitt, represented by law-school professor Robert Steinbuch, appeared before Circuit Judge Chip Welch for a decision on whether Corbitt's suit against the city could proceed.

The second thing that's different is that Corbitt's original lawsuit was ruled dead by the judge on Thursday. Welch said the litigation could not proceed because Corbitt and Steinbuch had ended the suit when they chose to take the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court after Welch found insufficient grounds to take immediate action against the city.

In Corbitt's appeal, the high court declined in June on procedural grounds to review Welch's findings. Thursday, the judge said the terms of Corbitt's appeal to the Supreme Court meant that the lawyer had effectively dismissed his own suit "with prejudice," meaning that Corbitt cannot use his original grievances against the city in a new suit.

"I didn't write your appeal notice," Welch said, citing a provision of Rule 3 of the rules of civil appellant procedure

"When you say you 'abandon all other claims' [in order to appeal] and the rules say that's a dismissal with prejudice, I don't see how I have jurisdiction."

For Steinbuch and Corbitt, that meant a return to City Hall with his gun to generate grounds for a new lawsuit, which they filed Thursday.

Corbitt's original suit was filed the day after a security guard refused to let him into City Hall with his gun. Barring him from the building was a violation of his rights established under a new law he said allowed enhanced concealed-carry permits like himself to carry firearms into municipal buildings.

In the suit, he complained that Little Rock is "driven by a leftist political agenda" and "believes that it is above the law."

Act 1024 had gone into effect a few days earlier. Enacted by the General Assembly in April 2021, the law was intended to open municipal buildings, with some exemptions, to enhanced-carry licensees.

In Welch's ruling against the suit in September 2021, he found that the law was not clearly written enough for him to rule that immediate action was necessary to force the city to comply with it.

Corbitt has since filed three other suits against authorities in Pulaski County where he has been refused entry at the Pulaski County District Courthouse, the Pulaski County Courthouse and a Game and Fish shooting range.

Arkansas has two levels of concealed-carry license, based on training and live-fire testing, with enhanced licensees allowed to carry a concealed firearm in more locations, including the State Capitol grounds and building, General Assembly meetings, state offices, churches and public universities.

Print Headline: Man with gun tests carry ban again in Little Rock

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