United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO PROCEED UNDER
BISSOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint under the
pseudonym “Jane Doe” against Defendants the Court
of Common Pleas of Butler County, PA, Thomas Doerr, Thomas
Holman, and Douglas Ritson. (Doc. 1). In the Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that a Pennsylvania state judge offered her
a position as a probation officer in his court in exchange
for an ongoing sexual relationship, and that she was
subjected to harassment and hostility after she opted to end
the arrangement. (Id.). Plaintiff now seeks leave to
proceed under a pseudonym, arguing that disclosure of her
true identity would expose her and her family to unwanted
media attention and potential violence by the parolees whom
she supervises. (Doc. 8). Further, Plaintiff argues that
there are no countervailing societal interests at play in
this case which would favor disclosure of her identity.
(Id.). For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will deny Plaintiff's motion.
general matter, Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure provides that: “[t]he title of the complaint
must name all the parties. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10. Rule
10 embodies a principle which is central to our system of
justice, a presumption in favor of transparency. As the
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
“[O]ne of the essential qualities of a Court of Justice
[is] that its proceedings should be public.”
Daubney v. Cooper, 109 Eng. Rep. 438, 441 (K.B.
1829); Nixon v. Warner Cmmc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S.
589, 598-99, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978). Rule 10(a)
requires parties to a lawsuit to identify themselves in their
respective pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a); Doe v.
Frank, 951 F.2d 320, 322 (11th Cir. 1992). Courts have
explained that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a)
illustrates “the principle that judicial proceedings,
civil as well as criminal, are to be conducted in
public.” Doe v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield
United, 112 F.3d 869, 872 (7th Cir. 1997).
“Identifying the parties to the proceeding is an
important dimension of publicness. The people have a right to
know who is using their courts.” Blue Cross,
112 F.3d at 872; Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). And, defendants have a
right to confront their accusers. See S. Methodist Univ.
Ass'n of Women Law Students v. Wynne & Jaffe,
599 F.2d 707, 713 (5th Cir. 1979). A plaintiff's use of a
pseudonym “runs afoul of the public's common law
right of access to judicial proceedings.” Does I
Thru XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058,
1067 (9th Cir. 2000).
Doe v. Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 408 (3d Cir. 2011).
with these guiding principles, decisions regarding whether to
allow a party to proceed under a pseudonym are consigned to
the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be
disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion.
Megless, 654 F.3d at 407. In exercising this
discretion, courts consider an array of competing factors:
factors in favor of anonymity include[ ]:
“(1) the extent to which the identity of the litigant
has been kept confidential; (2) the bases upon which
disclosure is feared or sought to be avoided, and the
substantiality of these bases; (3) the magnitude of the
public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the
litigant's identity; (4) whether, because of the purely
legal nature of the issues presented or otherwise, there is
an atypically weak public interest in knowing the
litigant's identities; (5) the undesirability of an
outcome adverse to the pseudonymous party and attributable to
his refusal to pursue the case at the price of being publicly
identified; and (6) whether the party seeking to sue
pseudonymously has illegitimate ulterior motives.”
On the other side of the scale, factors disfavoring anonymity
“(1) the universal level of public interest in access
to the identities of litigants; (2) whether, because of the
subject matter of this litigation, the status of the litigant
as a public figure, or otherwise, there is a particularly
strong interest in knowing the litigant's identities,
beyond the public's interest which is normally obtained;
and (3) whether the opposition to pseudonym by counsel, the
public, or the press is illegitimately motivated.”
these factors in the instant case, the Court is constrained
to find that Plaintiff has not overcome the strong
presumption against allowing parties to use a pseudonym.
First, the Court notes that Plaintiff is not a minor.
“Where victims are not minors, courts are generally
less inclined to let the alleged victim proceed in litigation