Huntington Beach man seeks $14,385 in legal fees after city sued over his petition for a local gun ban

A SWAT team member shoots a target with a 9mm automatic rifle. A Huntington Beach man is requesting more than $14,000 in legal fees after the city took legal action intended to stop him from circulating a petition calling for a local ban on semiautomatic and automatic guns.
(File Photo / Los Angeles Times)

A Huntington Beach man is requesting more than $14,000 in legal fees after the city filed a lawsuit intended to stop him from circulating a petition seeking to ban semiautomatic and automatic guns in the city.

Attorney Jerry Friedman filed the motion Monday in Orange County Superior Court requesting $14,385 for 46 hours of work on behalf of Daniel Horgan, a local real estate agent and mortgage broker.

“The city filed a frivolous lawsuit against my client to suppress his right to petition,” Friedman said.

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

City Attorney Michael Gates called the fees “exorbitant” and called Friedman’s motion a political move. Friedman is vying for Gates’ seat in this fall’s election.

In November, Horgan filed notice of intent to circulate his petition in Huntington Beach, saying he was tired of hearing about shootings “over and over and over.”

Horgan’s proposed law would make possession and sale of semiautomatic and automatic firearms in Huntington Beach a felony by April 1. Such weapons already in circulation would have to be surrendered to the Police Department by Jan. 1, though there would be a three-month probationary period to comply.

In April, Gates filed for a court injunction against Horgan, contending the petition was “unconstitutional, invalid and not entitled to a place on the ballot.”

Gates argued the petition placed the city at odds with the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

Friedman hit back by filing an anti-SLAPP motion in May, accusing the city of violating his client’s free-speech rights. SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation” and is considered an attempt to intimidate critics by burdening them with the costs of a legal defense. California is one of 28 states that have anti-SLAPP laws.

At the end of May, Gates asked the court to drop the suit after learning that Horgan wouldn’t submit signatures from his gun petition, making the case moot.

The petition had garnered only 587 signatures, far short of the roughly 12,000 it needed to qualify for the November ballot, according to city officials.

The anti-SLAPP motion was eventually removed from the court’s docket because the city’s lawsuit ended, Friedman said.

Horgan said the entire episode has been a learning experience for him and that he believes the “mess” should be covered by the city.

Twitter: @vegapriscella