Florida will pay $1.1 million in legal fees to attorneys who challenged a controversial state law that sought to prevent doctors from asking patients about guns, a group representing opponents said Monday.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced the legal-fees agreement more than five months after a federal appeals court sided with doctors and medical groups in striking down key parts of the 2011 law — which became known as the “docs vs. glocks” law. The state did not appeal the Feb. 16 decision by the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A copy of the legal-fees agreement had not been posted in an online court file Monday morning. But documents indicate the state and the law’s opponents had been in mediation on the fees.
The law, which was backed by groups such as the National Rifle Association, included a series of restrictions on doctors and health providers. For example, it sought to prevent physicians from entering information about gun ownership into medical records if the physicians knew the information was not “relevant” to patients’ medical care or safety or to the safety of other people.
Also, the law said doctors should refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the doctors believed in “good faith” that the information was relevant to medical care or safety. Also, the law sought to prevent doctors from discriminating against patients or “harassing” them because of owning firearms.
Opponents argued, in part, that the law violated free-speech rights. The full appeals court found that the record-keeping, inquiry and anti-harassment parts of the law were unconstitutional, but upheld the portion of the law that bars doctors from discriminating against patients who have guns.
“Legislators across the country should learn from Florida’s example that if you side with the corporate gun lobby instead of your constituents, you endanger the safety of children and families, impinge upon First Amendment rights of doctors, and force taxpayers to pay millions to unsuccessfully defend unconstitutional laws,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and an attorney in the case, said in a prepared statement Monday. “Thankfully, in this case justice prevailed and the court recognized that doctors have a First Amendment right to tell the truth about guns, and the risks they can pose to children and families.”
When asked for comment Monday about the legal fees, John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said in an email that Scott signed the 2011 law after it “was approved by a large, bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature.”
“Governor Scott is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” Tupps said. “Much of this law was either never challenged or upheld in court. This (legal fees) settlement is in accordance with Florida law and a recommendation from the Department of Financial Services.”
The challenge to the law was filed in June 2011 and played out over nearly six years. A U.S. District Court judge blocked the law from taking effect, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the law in three rulings before the full appeals court agreed to take up the case.
Supporters of the law said it was necessary to prevent doctors, such as pediatricians, from harassing and discriminating against patients and parents about gun ownership. The also described the law, formally known as the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, as a Second Amendment issue.
But Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, an attorney with the firm Ropes & Gray, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement Monday that the case allows doctors to “go back to giving their best advice to patients when it comes to gun safety.”
“From day one in bringing this case, our commitment has been to protect doctors’ First Amendment rights to ensure the safety of individuals, families and communities in Florida,” Hallward-Driemeier said. “The successful resolution of the litigation and subsequent fees and costs award are both critical to furthering that goal.”
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
South Florida says
This is the first I heard of this. I guess I’m behind.
Steve Robinson says
It’s nice to win one every now and again. A victory for sanity.
A tiny manatee says
Good, a law restricting the use of free speech has been overturned.
Oh yeah, what did the NRA have to say about the law abiding black concealed carrier that was murdered by the police for exercising his second amendment rights?
F*** you, NRA.
Don’t mess with our 2nd A. 😊
Florida isn’t paying anything. Florida residents are footing the bill!
another vet says
If I go to the doctor to be treated for the flu why does he need to know if I own a gun?
So all you have to do when a doctor wants to know if you have a gun, just say NO. next question, bend over a cough.
If my Doctor ever asks about guns I will be getting a new doctor.
Maybe the state should send a bill to the NRA
How many memberships does it take to pay the $11 Million salary of Wayne LePiere,, seemed to me to be just another stupid NRA ploy so I canceled my Life Membership!
Jaded Veteran says
Why is the Brady Center and, for that matter, other groups, only concerned about GUN violence? Anytime I see any politician or group targeting just GUN violence, I realize that they are not concerned about violence, just guns. All I need to know.
Phil Chanfrau says
This is a clear example of how easy and expensive it is to keep feeding the GOP base with red meat. There is no evidence to support a claim that physicians were a threat to the Second Amendment; and no need for the law. The GOP was pandering to gun owners fears, clear and simple.