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Appeals court judge untangles controversial 'docs vs. glocks' case at UHLC's Sondock ethics lecture

Judge Adalberto Jordán of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals served as the second Jurist-in-Residence of 2018 for the Judge Ruby Kless Sondock Lectureship in Legal Ethics Jurist-In-Residence Program.

March 26, 2018 — Judge Adalberto Jordán of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained why doctors cannot be prohibited from asking their patients about firearm ownership recently at the University of Houston Law Center.

Jordán's was the latest speaker in the Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Lectureship in Legal Ethics Jurist-In-Residence Program. His lecture, titled "Observations on Wollschlaeger v. Governor: The So-Called "Docs v. Glocks" Case," was sponsored by the Health Law & Policy Institute.

"This case had a very long history in the Eleventh Circuit," Jordán said. "It arose from the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act, passed by the Florida legislature, which sought to prevent doctors from asking their patients about firearm ownership.

"This doctor purportedly told one of his patients that if she refused to answer questions about her family's firearm ownership, that they had to find a new pediatrician because he wouldn't treat the children."

In three separate instances, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act. The complainants in the case, including individual physicians, said the restrictions were in violation of the First Amendment. A federal district judge sided with the doctors and instituted a ban to prevent the law from going into effect.

The state appealed and in February 2017, the en banc Eleventh Circuit overturned the appellate court's previous decision, striking down the Florida law 10-1.

"The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right," Jordán said. "There was no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.

"Florida may generally believe that doctors and medical professionals should not ask about, nor express views hostile to firearm ownership, but it may not burden the speech of others in order to tilt public debate in a preferred direction."

Jordán was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961 and emigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1968.

He obtained his bachelor's degree in 1984 and his J.D. in 1987 from the University of Miami. After law school he clerked for Judge Thomas Clark of the United States Court of Appeals for

the Eleventh Circuit and for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the United States Supreme Court. He then returned to Miami and was in private practice at Steel Hector & Davis from 1989-1994 before working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida from 1994-1999. During his last year and a half at the U.S. Attorney's Office, he was head of the appellate division.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed him as a district judge for the Southern District of Florida. He served in that capacity until 2012, when President Barack Obama appointed him as a circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

He is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law and at the Florida International University College of Law, and he has been a lecturer at Harvard Law School. He served on the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements from 2010-12 and on the Judicial Conference's Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules from 2010-16. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the Judicial Advisory Board of the American Society of

The Jurist-In-Residence program is named in honor of Justice Ruby Kless Sondock, a trailblazer in the law who graduated as valedictorian and one of only five women in the UH law school class of 1962. After practicing law for many years, Sondock was appointed to the 234th District Court in 1977, making her the first female state district judge in Harris County. She was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 1982, making her the first woman to serve in a regular session of the court. She was proclaimed a "Texas Legal Legend" by the litigation section of the State Bar of Texas in 2016.

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