LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal court said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s lawyers can seek to dismiss a lawsuit that claims he ordered supporters to rough up protesters at a Kentucky campaign rally.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel didn’t tip its hand on the case’s overall merits when giving Trump’s lawyers the go-ahead to try to stop the lawsuit from proceeding.

“In short, we are convinced that a panel of this court should ensure that the Kentucky claim rests on a solid footing before permitting litigation to continue,” Judge David W. McKeague wrote for the three-judge panel based in Cincinnati. “It may, or it may not.”

In the spring, a federal judge in Kentucky refused to dismiss the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge David J. Hale said ample evidence could be seen as supporting allegations that the protesters’ treatment resulted from Trump’s actions.

McKeague noted that court decisions refusing to dismiss a lawsuit ordinarily aren’t appealed at the outset of a case, but said this case was “exceptional in many ways.”

The three protesters said they were shoved and punched by audience members at Trump’s command at the 2016 campaign rally in Louisville.

During the rally, Trump responded to protesters by saying: “Get ’em out of here.”

The president’s lawyers said Hale’s ruling denied Trump’s free speech protections.

Trump’s attorneys have said he wasn’t intentionally advocating violence against protesters, noting that he also said: “Don’t hurt ’em. If I say ‘go get ’em,’ I get in trouble with the press.”

McKeague said the president “must answer for a state-law claim that presents a novel question.” But the judge added that such an appeal by the president’s legal team “is hardly imprudent given the exceptional nature of this case.”

Hale had ordered the case be put on hold while the free speech issue is decided.

An attorney for the protesters, Greg Belzley, said Wednesday he wasn’t surprised by the appeals court panel’s order and said he looks forward to “the next stage of the battle.”

“We’re confident in the ultimate outcome, but only time will tell,” he said.

Trump’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Court documents showed that attorneys for the protesters asked that Trump be deposed in Kentucky and turn over information including tax returns and medical records. Trump’s lawyers have argued those requests are intrusive and extraneous.