Court Battles

Justices won’t hear appeal from couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by a St. Louis couple whose law licenses were sanctioned after they pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters near their home in the summer of 2020.

The demonstrations came on the heels of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer, and images of the couple — Mark and Patricia McCloskey — brandishing an assault-style rifle and pistol became a potent symbol of America’s culture war, drawing widespread condemnation, as well as praise from President Trump and Republican lawmakers.

The couple asked the justices to vacate the sanctions against them, arguing the disciplinary action they received ran afoul of their Second Amendment right to protect themselves and their home in the face of what they say was a violent threat.

The court’s denial of the McCloskeys’ petition for appeal Monday came in an unsigned order without noted comment or dissent. The move leaves intact the disciplinary sanctions against the McCloskeys, which includes the possible indefinite suspension of their law licenses if they commit any violations over a one-year probationary period that began last February. They were also ordered to complete 100 hours of pro bono legal work.

Mark McCloskey, a personal injury lawyer who is running as a Republican candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, told The Hill he was unsurprised the justices turned away his appeal since so few cases are taken by the Supreme Court.

“I was hoping that they would find that a lawyer who’s had a clean and spotless record for 37 years of practicing – that sanctioning them for doing no more than defending themselves would be a concept that they would take seriously and take under submission,” he said. “But I wasn’t surprised.” 

Following their standoff with anti-racism protesters in June 2020, Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment. They were pardoned last July by Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

Two months later, a Missouri panel that handles ethics complaints against lawyers filed a complaint seeking the suspension of the McCloskeys’ law licenses for their convictions, which led to the couple being sanctioned in February. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled their offenses constituted crimes of “moral turpitude,” which prompted the couple’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In their ultimately unsuccessful filing to the justices, the McCloskeys played up the support they had received from Republicans, including Trump, who once called the disciplinary action against them “absolutely absurd.”

“In entering its rulings for sanctions against Petitioners Mark T. and Patricia McCloskey,” they wrote in court papers, “the Supreme Court of Missouri necessarily determined that the McCloskeys’ actions in standing guard of their home and property with firearms displayed constitutes conduct of ‘moral turpitude,’ despite the protections for such action under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and despite the fact the McCloskeys were praised by President Trump and pardoned by Missouri Governor Parson.”

Updated at 3:05 p.m.

Tags Black Lives Matter George Floyd protests Mark McCloskey Mark McCloskey Mike Parson Patricia McCloskey Patricia McCloskey SCOTUS Supreme Court Trump
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