A split US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit refused Tuesday to review a trial judge’s orders that paused a challenge to New Jersey’s ban on three-dimensional gun printing. The court found that the orders could not be appealed because they were not final.
Attorneys general from several states initiated civil and criminal proceedings to prevent unregistered and unlicensed individuals from distributing computer programs that could be used to make firearms with a three-dimensional printer. In response, firearm interest groups filed suit, alleging that the attorneys’ actions were part of a “coordinated and politically fueled campaign” that violated various constitutional rights. The groups moved for a preliminary injunction in New Jersey.
Some of the claims that the plaintiffs made in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey were simultaneously pending in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, so the Attorney General asked for a stay of the New Jersey proceedings. So that the same case involving the same parties would not be in two different courts at once, the New Jersey district court issued an order dismissing without prejudice the motion for a preliminary injunction.
The firearm interest groups appealed the order, asking the appeals court to direct the district court to decide the motion for a preliminary injunction.
On Tuesday, the court stated that the order was not appealable because only final orders of district courts are appealable. The district court did not expressly deny the motion for a preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the order did not have the “practical effect of refusing an injunction,” because it simply postponed resolution of the action. By dismissing the case without prejudice, the court “clearly conveyed” that the order was not final. The plaintiffs failed to assert injury from the order.
The court also said that an immediate appeal was not necessary, because the plaintiffs could receive a ruling on their preliminary injunction action if they discontinued the Texas action.
The district court’s stay and dismissal orders were not appealable, so the appeals court dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.