For nearly two decades, Dorchester County Maryland officials, now led by Susan Webb, the Director of Planning & Zoning for Dorchester County, have relentlessly pursued Plaintiff Donald Willey, a decorated Marine combat veteran, for de minimis nuisance and zoning infractions. Beginning in 2021, Webb commenced a new enforcement action against Willey which ultimately ended with a consent order being issued in late 2022, where Willey agreed to remediate the alleged yard infractions by May 31, 2023.
On May 30, 2023, Webb and one of her inspectors conducted an inspection of the property. Several days later, on June 2, 2023, Webb entered Willey’s property, without notice or permission, and without notice to his attorney as required by a previously issued Consent Order, to serve Willey with several more Notices of Violations.
Willey declined to accept the Notices, instructing Webb to provide them to his attorney. Webb, irate with Willey, refused to leave the property and instead attached the notices to the canopy of his boat, causing damage in the process. All while a neighbor witnessed the entire interaction.
Two weeks later, on June 15, 2023, Webb went to the Dorchester County District Court and filed a petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (Petition), under penalty of perjury, against Willey. In the Petition, Webb stated that Willey had been “making threats of violence by firearms to myself and other departmental employees on numerous occasions.” She further stated that he had an unknown number of firearms and provided no details as to the type of firearms, etc. Webb was also required to provide a description as to how Willey had “unlawfully, recklessly, or negligently used, displayed, stored, possessed, or brandished a firearm,” to which she provided three dates with no additional details. Lastly, in response to the question whether the “respondent has committed or threatened violence against himself/herself or others, whether or not the threat of violence involved a firearm,” Webb merely stated that “[o]n three recent occasions myself and staff were warned of threats of violence from Mr. Willey,” providing no additional details as to the specific nature of the purported threats or how she became aware of the alleged threats.
As a result of Webb’s Petition, and the “reasonable grounds” evidentiary standard (a lesser standard than probable cause) for the issuance of a Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), an ERPO was issued, requiring Willey to surrender his firearms and ammunition, directing law enforcement to seize the firearms and ammunition, and enjoining Willey from purchasing new firearms and/or ammunition. Even more egregious, the ERPO required Deputies to seize Willey, and transport him for an involuntary mental health evaluation, which included a number of non-consensual and invasive tests.
At the hearing for the Final ERPO, Webb informed the Court that she would no longer be pursuing the Petition and the proceedings were terminated in Willey’s favor. Willey’s firearms were returned by the Sheriff’s office twelve days after the ordeal began.
On August 22, 2023, the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit, along with Donald Willey. The lawsuit asks the Court to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement of Maryland’s Red Flag Law, declare that the Red Flag Law is unconstitutional, and award compensatory, nominal, and punitive damages to Mr. Willey.
Case Team: Edward Paltzik, Serge Krimnus
To access all of the case documents, please visit the docket.