State says appeals court can take up ‘Jane Doe' issue

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has acknowledged that legal precedents would allow a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court to decide 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.

But in a filing Friday at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Bondi’s office also raised the possibility of later taking the “jurisdiction” issue to the full appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

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 a National Rifle Association challenge to the gun law.

The NRA then went to the Atlanta-based appeals court seeking to allow the woman to remain anonymous.

The appeals court, on June 8 raised the question about whether it should consider the anonymity matter and said that if “it is determined that this court is without jurisdiction, this appeal will be dismissed.”

In a filing last 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” and that the court can take up the anonymity issue.

Bondi’s office acknowledged in the Friday filing that the issue is “immediately appealable” to a three-judge panel.

“However, they (state officials) reserve the right to contend in future proceedings, before either the en banc (full) Eleventh Circuit or the Supreme Court of the United States, that such precedent should be overruled and that the order at issue here is not immediately appealable,” Bondi’s office said in the filing.

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.” Bondi’s office objected to the anonymity request.

News Service of Florida