The legal term pro se (meaning someone who forgoes a lawyer in order to represent themselves in cour) is normally a handy way of identifying a kook. Someone who's crazy. A person usually only goes pro se after they've been turned down by every litigant in a tri-state area or because they think their case against the NSA can only be properly argued by the person actually being buzzed by the black helicopters.
Bob Warden and his .40 caliber glock moments before being turned away from a community center.
Encountering a pro se plaintiff who's not nuts is rare. Which makes Bob Warden an anomaly.
Warden is the Seattle man who's currently challenging the city's gun ban. Two weeks ago he was ordered out of the Southwest Community Center after walking in with a .40 caliber glock strapped to his side. Today he filed a lawsuit against the city. And about thirty minutes ago he answered a call from The Daily Weekly and proved himself to be anything but crazy.While most people were still recovering from post-Thanksgiving gluttony hangovers, Warden and his adult son were out on a day trip. Their first stop: the federal courthouse, where they filed the lawsuit. Their second: Greg Nickels' house, where Warden's kid knocked on the door and served the mayor's son with the suit.
"Some families go shopping on Black Friday," says Warden. "My family does this."
Warden understands the conclusions most people would draw if they just heard a skeletal version of his story. Man walks into public place armed with pistol. Sues city. Must be one of those gun-nuts, right?
"If I didn't know me my knee-jerk reaction would be the same thing," says Warden. "But I'm just someone who saw an opportunity to challenge what is a blatantly illegal thing."
Warden is uniquely suited to that challenge. He won't get very specific about who he works for. (He says it's "a federal government agency in a field of labor and employee relations.") But as a certified pistol instructor and range safety officer with a law degree, he's got the chops to argue he's been wronged.
While the NRA and Alan Gottlieb's Second Amendment Foundation have also filed similar suits, Warden says his public stunt at the community center actually gives him a leg up.
"It has to do with legal standing," he says. "In order to have your case heard by a judge you have to have been harmed in some tangible way. The other case they may have standing. My goal was to simply make sure that that wasn't even an argument."
And in any case, Warden probably wouldn't join up with the NRA even if they'd have him. The 44-year-old says he's a lifelong Democrat who has only voted Republican twice in his life -- once for Sam Reed, the other time for former Senator Dan Evans.
"If there's such a thing as a second amendment establishment I guess I run a little counter to it," he says. "It's not a partisan thing, it's just about constitutional law and personal liberty."
It also doesn't seem to be a money thing. In his lawsuit, Warden is seeking attorney's fees, court costs and nominal damages of $1. Plus an unspecified amount in punitive damages against Nickels for what he hopes will "effectively deter future Washington municipal officials from behaving with reckless or callous disregard for federally protected rights."
So a pro se, gun-rights-loving Democrat who's not in it for the money. Does Warden think that makes him unusual?
"Perhaps," he says. "But it just comes from pragmatism and the rule of law. The second amendment is one of the first 10 amendments. The ACLU chooses not to focus on it and the NRA pretends like it's the only one, but to me they're all rights worth having and protecting."