Charleston attorney to argue before U.S. Supreme Court

By Cara Bailey | May 1, 2008


CHARLESTON - A Charleston attorney will appear before the highest court in the land this fall, arguing a Second Amendment case that originated from a 2004 arrest of a Marion County man.

Troy Giatras will become one of a select few lawyers to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Hayes, when he represents Randy Hayes.

"It's unbelievable," Giatras said of the opportunity to appear before the court. " I didn't think we would be here and didn't think it would occur under these circumstances.

"It's starting to sink in how heavy it is and obviously you hear people talk about the responsibility you need to have and work you need to do. For the first day or two after it was accepted reality didn't sink in."

Giatras said the case is expected to be heard in October or November, and he has already started daily preparation for the trial. He compared the preparation he is going through to that of a construction project, where you know the final step, and work backward.

"It's a different type of work from the day-to-day litigation you have to do," Giatras said. "There's a whole new set of rules that need to be followed."

Giatras said his experience in taking cases before the West Virginia Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals have helped him prepare for his day before the United States Supreme Court.

However, he still sought advice from other West Virginia attorneys who previously have argued against the Court.

"We've gone over prep material, do's and don'ts, thoughts, and how best to prepare for arguing in front of nine people that you may never encounter again in your life," Giatras said.

Part of the preparation will include a trip to Washington, D.C., to work with a class at Georgetown University. Giatras said the law school offers a moot clinic, where he will go to the school, and argue his case in front of three to five attorneys who will sit as judges in a courtroom that is supposedly a replica of a Supreme Court courtroom.

Giatras said the attorneys will ask questions and offer a critique of the case.

"This is all new to me," he said. "I've spent a lot of time and process to make sure we can do this right for Randy."

The case is expected to clarify a federal law that makes it a crime to possess a gun after being convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Hayes pled guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2004. The victim was his wife at the time, and Hayes was sentenced to one year of probation.

Ten years later, on July 25, 2004, the police were called to Haye's home and searched it, finding a Winchester rifle under his bed, Giatras said. Haye's was arrested.

On Jan. 5, 2005, a federal court indicted Haye's on three charges of possessing firearms after having been convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" in violation of federal law. An amendment

On May 4, 2005, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment that included the same three charges plus a "Notice of Additional Factors," which alleged that the 1994 misdemeanor battery offense on a state charge satisfied the definition of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence."

According to Giatras, Hayes sought dismissal of the indictment on the basis that his 1994 offense was not a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. However, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Keeley issues a bench ruling that denied the motion to dismiss.

In July 2005, Hayes entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of the indictment, which preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss the case. On April 16, 2007, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed the ruling on a 2-1 vote.

The U.S. Department of Justice then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed on March 24, 2008, to hear it.

The case is expected to be heard in October, November or December 2008, with an opinion being released no later than June 2009.

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