Jim Maloney, an attorney in Port Washington, New York, says he will appeal a federal judge’s ruling dismissing his claims that his arrest for possession of nunchaku was illegal and unconstitutional. Nunchaku are … you know, those stick things in action movies, where some guy jumps into the frame and then spends about 60 seconds showing off by spinning them around all over the place, just before getting shot by somebody who is totally fed up with that.
Well, Mr. Maloney is very devoted to them. He said in an interview (and in his complaint) that he has been involved with martial arts since 1975 and has even developed his own style of nunchakuing, which he calls “Shafan Ha-Lavan,” Hebrew for “white rabbit.” Maloney says he used the nunchaku only to “hone his dexterity and coordination,” never for evil, and there is no evidence to the contrary.
But the things are illegal in New York, under Penal Law section 265.01, which also bans switchblades, brass knuckles, sword canes (my personal favorite), and throwing stars, in case you need to go check your inventory. Maloney was arrested for possession of nunchaku in 2000, after a worker near his home called police and claimed that Maloney had pointed a rifle at him. Maloney denies that, and says he was merely observing the man through a telescope. But police responded and a 12-hour standoff followed. Maloney says he was eventually tricked into leaving his home and was arrested (peacefully). According to the report, police didn’t find a rifle, but did find a couple of unregistered handguns and the nunchaku. Maloney pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but then declared war on the anti-nunchaku law.
Striking like a snake, Maloney hands his
declaratory judgment complaint
to the clerk, and pays his filing fee,
before fading back into the night.
Maloney, representing himself, sued for a declaratory judgment that the blanket ban on nunchaku is unconstitutional. He also challenged the legality of his arrest in a separate suit against the county. That suit is still pending, but the first one was dismissed in early February by Judge Spatt of the Eastern District. The judge rejected Maloney’s claim of a First Amendment right to express himself with nunchaku, a Second Amendment right to bear nunchaku, and a Ninth Amendment right to do whatever it is that the Ninth Amendment lets you do.
Undaunted, Maloney told reporters he would continue his fight against “nunchaku intolerance,” saying that “[a] law that punishes a person . . . for the peaceful possession in his or her home of two sticks connected by a cord is nothing less than draconian, and should embarrass us all.” Personally I’m still not over being embarrassed by Abu Ghraib, but this is certainly on the list of embarrassments.
The depth of Maloney’s commitment to the issue can be gauged at his website, www.nunchakulaw.com, where you can read all the documents from the case.
2014 UPDATE: Maloney’s case was dismissed but later reinstated after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decision in McDonald v. Chicago. Motions for summary judgment are currently pending in that case. So, 11 years after he filed his complaint and 14 years after his arrest, he may finally be vindicated.