TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A federal appeals court is questioning whether it has legal “jurisdiction” in 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 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered attorneys to submit positions within two weeks about whether the appeals court is in a legal posture to take up 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 National Rifle Association, which filed the challenge, then went to the appeals court seeking to allow the woman to remain anonymous.
But in documents issued Friday, the appeals court directed attorneys to explain “whether, under what theory, and to what extent, the district court’s … order is immediately appealable.” The documents also said that if “it is determined that this court is without jurisdiction, this appeal will be dismissed.”
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 and 17 others wounded.
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 lawyers for Attorney General Pam Bondi 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.