A federal appeals court has legal “jurisdiction” to take up a dispute about whether the identity of a 19-year-old Alachua County woman should be kept secret in a challenge to a Florida law that raised the age to purchase rifles and other long guns, the National Rifle Association argued in a document filed Tuesday.
The filing was in response to an order by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for attorneys to submit arguments about whether the court is in a legal posture to consider the matter. The issue stems from a ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that the woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” could not remain anonymous as a plaintiff in the challenge to the gun law.
The NRA, which filed the challenge, then went to the appeals court seeking to allow the woman to remain anonymous. The appeals court, however, on June 8 raised the question about whether it should consider the matter and said that if “it is determined that this court is without jurisdiction, this appeal will be dismissed.”
In the filing Tuesday, NRA attorneys wrote that while the appeals court’s jurisdiction involves final orders of district courts, it also can extend to certain “collateral orders.” Quoting an earlier case, it said the appeals court has “squarely held that the type of order on appeal here — ‘an order denying anonymity for a party’ — ‘is a final appealable order under the collateral order doctrine.’ ”
The NRA filed the underlying lawsuit March 9 after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a sweeping school-safety measure that included new gun-related restrictions. The legislation was a response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and faculty members dead. In part, the law raised from 18 to 21 the minimum age to purchase rifles and other long guns.
In late April, the NRA filed a motion to add “Jane Doe” as a plaintiff to the lawsuit and asked Walker to allow the woman to remain anonymous due to fear that public exposure could result in “harassment, intimidation, and potentially even physical violence.”
But Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office argued the request for anonymity “does not provide a sufficient basis for overcoming the strong presumption in favor of open judicial proceedings.” Walker agreed with Bondi’s office, leading the NRA to go to the Atlanta-based appeals court.