Plaintiffs Seeking Religious Exemption from Private Employer’s Vaccine Mandate Allowed to Proceed Pseudonymously

Doe 1 against Northshore Univ. HealthsystemYesterday’s decision was made by Judge John F. Kness of N.D. Illinois. The court started by acknowledging that pseudonymous lawsuits are not allowed.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 10) provide that “[t]The title must include all parties. This rule “implants the principle that civil and criminal judicial proceedings are open to public scrutiny.” The “strong presumption that public access” means that the use of fictional names is “generally frowned on.” …

The public can monitor the proceedings by monitoring the court proceedings. Public access to facts and information about a case is blocked if a party hides their identity. …. The presumption against pseudonymity is amplified by the public’s constitutionally guaranteed right of access to court proceedings…. “[T]”The people have the right to find out who is using their courtrooms.”

To overcome the prohibition against proceeding pseudonymously, parties must show “exceptional circumstances” that exceed both the public policy favoring identified parties as well as the prejudice that anonymity would cause to the opposition party. Pseudonymity requests must be supported by evidence.[]The ordinary presumption that judicial openness is assumed.”

The public has the right to know the identities of plaintiffs. Thus, plaintiffs “bear[]The burden of “strongly presuming judicial openness” must be overcome.

Three arguments were offered by plaintiffs to support pseudonymity.

  1. “Plaintiffs claim that the reasons they refuse to get vaccined are sensitive medical decisions.
  2. “[T]According to hey, those decisions were influenced by their private religious beliefs.
  3. “Plaintiffs invoke ‘their legitimate fear that they will be humiliated, ostracized, or retaliated against by co-workers and supervisors, and the general public.’

Court agreed.

The Court is not able to decide whether the Plaintiffs are satisfied with their obligations. Plaintiffs have a third reason for their pseudonymity argument. They “legitimately fear” that the public disclosure of their religious beliefs and medical decisions, which are essentially their private religions and personal life choices will lead to increased and concentrated scorn and humiliation towards them and their family. The Court has found that the Plaintiffs’ arguments for the potential harms they would suffer should their identities be revealed in this lawsuit are sufficient to overcome the strong presumption about public access.

Plaintiffs quote news articles, online comments and other information about the case. Commenters mock or injuse Plaintiffs and ask for their dismissal. Plaintiffs also mention the wider sentiment in the country and the threats, ridicules, harassments, scorns and opprobrium that are directed generally at people who like them. [Plaintiffs]If you have objections religiously to the COVID-19 vaccination, Plaintiffs’ appeals to online comments on national news sources—The Hill and MSN—and “broader sentiment[s]”

In support of their claims, plaintiffs also provide additional examples offline. According to Plaintiffs, they claim they’ve been harassed by NorthShore-informed superiors because they know they oppose vaccination. According to Plaintiffs, one plaintiff was subjected to harassment by an individual that reached the point of law enforcement. [was]Required to rescue the victims [Plaintiff]Remove the harasser from her vicinity and get out of her situation. These examples are troubling, even if they’re true. {NorthShore disputes at least some of the assertions in Plaintiffs’ counsel’s declaration.} These concerns, in addition to arguments regarding medical records and private religious beliefs, are sufficient to overthrow the “strong presumption that public access” …

Moreover, some guidance should be taken from the Supreme Court—which recently addressed pseudonymous litigation by plaintiffs challenging a vaccine mandate. The concurrence and the dissent were not allowed to denial the preliminary injunction. Does 1–3 v. Mills The issue of pseudonymity wasn’t raised. Rather, plaintiffs’ pseudonymity, although only tacitly, was accepted. Given the charged atmosphere concerning vaccinations and vaccine mandates, and for the other reasons discussed above, the Court is persuaded that this is the rare case where a party should be permitted to proceed pseudonymously….

This is difficult to reconcile with many cases that deny pseudonymity for people who have been accused of sexual harassment, rape and fraud. Or (2) employment plaintiffs, who fear getting bad press because of their litigious nature, which could lead to future employers refusing to hire them. This is not covered by precedents that permit facial legal challenges of government policies. The facts relating to plaintiffs are relatively insignificant. However, this challenge was largely based on facts about both the plaintiffs and the defendants. However, there is a wide range of pseudonymity cases. Some very rare cases even allow pseudonymity in civil rape/sexual harass/ etc. defendants). The case is more favorable to pseudonymity.