United States District Court, D. Minnesota
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. Rau, United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff John-Henry Doe's
Motion to Proceed Under Pseudonym (ECF No. 5), which was
referred for report and recommendation under 28 U.S.C. §
636 and Local Rule 72.2. (ECF No. 3). The Court recommends
Plaintiff's motion be denied for the reasons stated
filed a Complaint on May 16, 2019. He did not include his
actual name in the caption of the Complaint, as required by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a), but proceeded
anonymously under a “John-Henry Doe” pseudonym.
Further, he did not request the Court's permission before
filing his Complaint anonymously, which is the preferred
practice. Roe v. St. Louis Univ., No. 4:08CV1474
JCH, 2009 WL 910738, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 2, 2009).
alleges that his cause of action involves a violation of his
“freedom of movement and right to travel freely.”
(ECF No. 1, Compl., at 5). Plaintiff claims he was stopped
outside the Austin Police Department and given a citation for
driving without valid driver's license. (Compl., at 3).
There is absolutely no reason, as evidence and case laws
prove . . . for the Claimant to continue
“purchasing” a “plastic card” from
the private business called the “DMV” and be
forced to be associated with said private business in order
to exercise his unalienable rights to go about his private
life in his private property and be left alone from
government intrusion and deprivations of freedoms as the
Defendants caused to happen. . . . The Defendant's
actions is “criminal racketeering” and extortion
by intimidation by means of paper terrorism.”
(Compl., at 4).
11, 2019, Plaintiff filed an ex parte motion to proceed under
a pseudonym. Plaintiff “seeks to conceal his identity
pursuant of this case to prevent retaliation or other forms
of oppression from the Defendants during the process and
discovery of this case . . . .” (ECF No. 5, at 1).
Plaintiff requests the Court's permission to proceed
anonymously in one of the following three ways:
(1) filing a complaint under the plaintiffs true name, and
then requesting a protective order or leave to amend the
complaint to shield the plaintiff[']s identity; (2) using
pseudonyms in the complaint but setting forth the
plaintiff's true name in an attached letter; or (3) using
a fictitious name in the complaint but verifying the
complaint by signing the plaintiff[']s true name.”
(ECF No. 5, at 2).
Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) generally requires parties to
identify themselves. Doe I v. Individuals, 561
F.Supp.2d 249, 257 (D. Conn. 2008) . “There is a strong
presumption against allowing parties to use a pseudonym,
” Luckett v. Beaudet, 21 F.Supp.2d 1029, 1029
(D. Minn. 1998), and it is the exceptional case in which a
party is allowed to proceed anonymously, Doe v.
Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 408 (3d Cir. 2011). The public
has a First Amendment right to access judicial proceedings,
and part of that right is knowing the identity of the
parties. Luckett, 21 F.Supp.2d at 1029. When a
plaintiff commences an action in federal court, he
“invites public scrutiny of the dispute and the
proceeding.” Id. Notwithstanding the
foregoing, a party may proceed anonymously in three
circumstances: (1) if the plaintiff is challenging certain
governmental activity; (2) if the plaintiff would have
“to disclose information of the utmost intimacy”
in pursuing his claims; or (3) if the plaintiff would be
compelled to admit an intention to commit a criminal act,
thereby exposing himself to prosecution. Id.
(quoting Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 185 (5th Cir.
1981)) (internal quotation omitted) (further noting the list
is not exhaustive). While Plaintiff does not specify which
condition he meets to proceed anonymously, the Court
construes the motion in his favor and presumes Plaintiff
moves to proceed anonymously under the first circumstance -
that of challenging governmental activity.
Doe v. Stegall, two child plaintiffs challenged the
constitutionality of prayer and bible reading exercises in
public school. 653 F.2d at 182. The court found the Does
clearly challenged government activity and the
“[e]vidence on the record indicate[d] that the Does may
expect extensive harassment and perhaps even violent
reprisals if their identities are disclosed to a Rankin
County community hostile to the viewpoint reflected in
plaintiffs' complaint.” Id. at 186. The
court found that the threat of violence, along with the fact
that the plaintiffs were children, weighed in favor of
maintaining the Does' anonymity. Id.
Plaintiff has failed to show that his claims against the
Government could result in any form of retaliatory conduct.
Specifically, Plaintiff does not allege, much less show, that
there is a possibility that he might suffer extensive
harassment or violent reprisals by the government officials
named in his suit in the event his name is disclosed. While
Plaintiff asserts conclusory allegations that revealing his
identity will cause “retaliation [and] other forms of
oppression from Defendants, ” Plaintiff points to no
evidence or factual basis for his conclusion. Furthermore,
the subject-matter of Plaintiff's suit, being able to
drive without a valid state driver's license, is not a
volatile topic to ...