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by Gila Hayes

It’s interesting when questions from non-members and members show a clear trend. First, of course, it often alerts me to clarifications and explanations that we can provide on our website. Second, trending questions indicate topics under discussion on gun boards, on YouTube channels, and amongst armed citizens in general of which we should be aware.

April was no exception with a lot of requests for specific limits on how much assistance Network members would be granted after a self-defense incident. In our litigious society, nearly everyone buys insurance for indemnification against everything from liability for the parcel delivery man slipping and falling on our porch to car accidents, so folks tend to view the world through the lens of insurance. As a result, many questions are couched in insurance terminology that doesn’t apply to the Network’s assistance for members. Questions about policy limits, exclusions, and recoupment are often posed that also don’t apply to what we do for members after self defense.

Specified limits are one of the identifying features of insurance. The Network serves members as a supportive membership organization, and does not sell insurance policies or coverage, so we do not set arbitrary limits on funding to prevent or defend against criminal charges or civil litigation a member may face following use of force in self defense. Our limits are more of the practical sort and funding for member legal needs after self defense is restricted only by the necessity of maintaining a sufficiently robust Legal Defense Fund to provide for the next member with post-incident legal needs. My hogwash detector always goes off when I am promised that something is unlimited, so I avoid that word in answers to questions or explanations of Network assistance.

Long-time members likely remember the many years during which our practical limit was up to one half of our Legal Defense Fund for all the expenses of defending against unmeritorious prosecution or lawsuit following a member’s self-defense incident. In all those years, the total paid in attorneys’ fees, expert witnesses costs, funding for consultants and private investigators never came close to half of the Fund. While we stand ready to fund defense against civil lawsuit, expense of filing an appeal and defending our member during a retrial, that has not yet been the plight of a Network member yet.

These past few years, we’ve moved away from the half-of-the-Fund limit now that the Legal Defense Fund is fully funded with a balance that exceeds $4,000,000. Even during our formative years, we were proud to have been able to fully fund all of our 34 member-involved cases as has been our history since opening the Network in 2008.

Do You Watch the Supreme Court?

It can be interesting, to say the least. There are almost always cases under discussion that have big implications for our dwindling freedoms as Americans. Still, you wouldn’t think there would have been much of interest in arguments the court heard earlier this year that were about commercial fishing.

I sat up and started paying attention when a columnist I follow wrote that arguments presented before the USSC on January 17 discussed our nation’s bloated administrative state. Internet searches the next weekend subsequently turned up articles and blogs predicting the court might overthrow long-accepted doctrine, which asserts “that courts should defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute” (SCOTUSblog at ). I was particularly interested by the second part of the question put before the USSC which asked, “Should the Court overrule Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council or at least clarify whether statutory silence on controversial powers creates an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency?” That word, “deference,” hooked my attention.

The 1984 Chevron doctrine has reverberated through many cases in which “we the governed” have asked judges to fix harms inflicted by the heavy hand of administrative agencies. While the question in front of the supreme court is national, let us not forget that accepted practices at the national level are mirrored in lower courts. The issue echoes an early blow to the Network’s fight over the restriction against enrolling new members who live in Washington State. The state’s insurance commissioner alleged that the Network’s assistance to members constituted insurance; the Network retorted that none of the Network’s assistance matches WA State’s legal definition of insurance and sought a decision from an independent judge. Sadly, the superior court judge dodged the issue by stating that judges are allowed to defer to agencies on issues that fall outside the judge’s knowledge, and he chose to do just that.

When reading about the January supreme court arguments, I learned that our judge’s deference to the insurance commissioner, which I decried at the time as profound intellectual slothfulness, has been accepted practice nationally for nearly 40 years. During the arguments in January, Chief Justice Roberts observed that the Court hasn’t relied on the Chevron doctrine for some time, but I wonder if he misses the point, because clearly many, many lower courts are delighted to shrug off their responsibilities by rubber stamping whatever administrative agencies think the law means.

To be clear, in our situation, instead of independently interpreting the law, a judge lazily deferred to what an elected insurance commissioner thought. Still, I hope the US Supreme Court will make the right decision. It’s not personal. It won’t change the WA problem for the Network; we are working to resolve that problem differently. Nonetheless, concern over legitimate government makes this a topic anyone who’s worried about our diminishing freedoms should watch.

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