Yale’s Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Pseudonymity in Doe v. Gerken

Yesterday’s filing (see here for more information on the case underlying); this excerpt:

Counsel for Plaintiffs argues that Yale Law School administrations retaliated by discouraging an professor from hiring them to be teaching assistants, and threatening their future career prospects. They ask for anonymity and request leave to move their motion. The brief they submitted fails to adequately address the established standard in this circuit regarding such motions. It offers no evidence about the three factors mentioned and leaves out any discussion on the seven additional factors. It fails to inform the court, as does the complaint upon which it is based.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s drafters understood the importance of transparency within federal courts. Rule 10(a), which states unambiguously that the title of the complaint must be named, clearly clarifies the importance of transparency in federal courts. All “The parties.” The courts are aware of extraordinary circumstances where the rule can be overturned and where plaintiffs have the right to proceed anonymously: When sensitive allegations of abuse or physical safety from organized criminality or mob violence are involved.

These circumstances are not comparable to the one in this case, but they represent possible tragedies avoided with anonymity. This isn’t a tragedy, but soap opera. {Check out David Lat, Yale Law School World Changes, Original Jurisdiction (Dec. 3, 2021), (“Happy Friday. We are updating everyone’s favourite legal-academic soap opera As the Yale Law School World turns. (footnote omitted).} The administrators failed to address the concerns of two law students who were concerned about an unknown student collecting information on them. The students claim that law school officials misrepresented their candor to another professor, who was looking at hiring them as teaching aids. Public media outlets already disclosed their identities.

These aren’t the facts that would justify plaintiffs hiding behind fake names at court. The plaintiffs seek anonymity not out of fear, but because they do not want to speak publicly about the allegations. However, standing up in public for the actions you accuse another person of is part of being admitted to a courthouse.

The case in question is not an exception. Both the case and the dispute which spawned them have been extensively covered by the public. The plaintiffs themselves admit that an entire “dossier” of information about them—including much of the information relevant to their allegations—was broadly disseminated to all Yale Law School students. The plaintiffs’ defamation claims are based on the belief that judges and professors have all the details in their “dossier”. The dispute has been closely followed by national mainstream media and bloggers. The public is entitled to see the names of the people who made the claims, and the truthfulness of the claimants. It will aid the public in determining whether this lawsuit, according to plaintiffs’ counsel, “promote the public good.” [citing media quote]It could be a different goal,

Plaintiffs request to make their attack anonymously in violation of the Second Circuit precedent is strongly discouraged. District courts use it regularly.

As I said briefly after the suit was filed, I believe it is very likely that pseudonymity won’t be allowed in this instance. But the law here can be vague enough to allow for many different cases. Pseudonymous LawDraft on the topic.