Bonner County appeals to high court

News editor | October 22, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Bonner County is appealing to the Idaho Supreme Court in its bid to force the issue of firearms possession during the annual Festival at Sandpoint waterfront concert series.

In the appeal, counsel for the county cites 12 grounds for why Judge Lansing Haynes' ruling in the suit should be reversed. The appeal alleges that Haynes failed to apply the correct summary judgment standard by ruling that certain facts were "unpersuasive" or "speculative."

The appeal further argues that Haynes applied an incorrect or incomplete standard for standing by requiring an actual injury and rejecting facts in the record of threatened injury or anticipated harm. The appeal also holds that Haynes incorrectly interpreted Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler's duty under state law and said a lack of clarity in state law, which forbids the curtailment of Second Amendment rights on public property, is hampering a coordinated law enforcement response should trouble arise.

The county, according to court documents, anticipates a protest if the Festival's prohibition against firearms is allowed to stand. The city, which leases War Memorial Field to the Festival, has defended the nonprofit's right to enact its own security protocols while renting the venue.

Other arguments in the appeal allege Haynes erred by finding that a county sheriff has no more interest in upholding the Idaho Constitution than ordinary citizens and that the court could not assume a confrontation would result from the Festival's weapons policy.

"The trial court erred as a matter of law by finding no need for clarification of the law," attorney Amy Clemmons, the county's counsel in the dispute, said in a nine-page notice of appeal filed with the high court on Tuesday.

Haynes ruled in September in favor of the city's motion for summary judgment, which brought an abrupt end to the litigation without a trial.

The city expressed dismay with the county's appeal.

"We had hoped that the recent decision by Judge Haynes at the district court-level would bring an end to this case and the growing costs to city of Sandpoint and Bonner County taxpayers," Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad said in a statement. "It is fiscally irresponsible for Bonner County and Sheriff Wheeler to continue to pursue this case at taxpayer expense, especially given the fact that there is another case pending before the courts."

Rognstad is referring to a suit brought by the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and the Second Amendment Foundation. The suit is scheduled to be tried in 1st District Court in February of next year, according to court records.

The city, meanwhile, is seeking attorney's fees for the suit it prevailed on.

"We are confident that we will receive an affirmative ruling in this case as there is recent precedence with the West Bonner County School District also being awarded attorney fees in their lawsuit brought by Bonner County, where the court also found the county had no standing," Rognstad said.

That suit involved the demarcation of districts to be served by school district trustees.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached at or followed on Twitter @KeithDailyBee