Judge denies anonymity in NRA suit against gun law - Florida Politics

Judge denies anonymity in NRA suit against gun law

A federal judge has denied the National Rifle Association‘s request to shield a plaintiff’s name in litigation against the state’s new school safety and mental health law.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Sunday turned down the NRA’s request to use a “Jane Doe” pseudonym for the 19-year-old Alachua County woman, portrayed in court documents as seeking to remain anonymous due to fear that public exposure could result in “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.”

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Attorney General Pam Bondi had opposed the move, saying the woman’s desire for anonymity was not justified. “The amended complaint also includes allegations about a 19-year-old male identified as John Doe,” Walker’s order notes.

While acknowledging that false names may sometimes be used in litigation, the judge cited federal court rules that complaints “must name all the parties,” and referred to case law that lawsuits are “public events” and that the public has a “legitimate interest in knowing all of the facts involved, including the identities of the parties.”

The NRA’s local attorney handling the case, former federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia, referred questions to David H. Thompson, managing partner for the Cooper & Kirk law firm in Washington, D.C. He was not available Monday morning.

Lawyers for the NRA late last month asked Walker to keep the woman’s identity secret, based in large part on a declaration filed by the gun-rights group’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, who detailed threatening emails she had received featuring derogatory words for parts of the female anatomy.

Walker, however, suggested that were it “entirely” up to him, he would have granted the request.

“One need only look to the harassment suffered by some of the Parkland shooting survivors to appreciate the vitriol that has infected public discourse about the Second Amendment,” he wrote. “And this Court has no doubt that the harassment goes both ways; Hammer’s affidavit proves just that.

“People—especially teenagers—should not have to subject themselves to threats of violence, continued harassment, and a concerning amount of public scrutiny just to share their views about the Second Amendment (whatever those views may be).

“But it’s not entirely up to this Court.”

Here’s another excerpt:

The lawsuit, filed March 9 by the NRA, came just hours after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a sweeping school-safety measure that included new gun-related restrictions. The legislation was a rapid response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and faculty members dead and 17 others wounded.

The law raised from 18 to 21 the minimum age to purchase rifles and other long guns. It also imposed a three-day waiting period on the sale of long guns, such as the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz last year legally purchased, without any waiting period, and is accused of using in the Valentine’s Day massacre at his former school in Parkland.

In late April, the NRA filed a motion to add “Jane Doe” as a plaintiff to the lawsuit, which contends the age restriction in the new law “violates the fundamental rights of thousands of responsible, law-abiding adult Florida citizens and is thus invalid under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.”

“The NRA must file its amended complaint—without pseudonyms—no later than May 21,” Walker ordered.

 

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida. 

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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