In my research to write an article about this topic, I came across the following case. Pseudonymous Litigation: The LawPlease let me know your thoughts.
C.R.M. sued the government for medical malpractice, alleging “negligent fertility treatment at military medical facilities …, which resulted in a quintuplet pregnancy.” At 19 weeks of gestation, two spontaneous abortions were performed. The three remaining children, “were only born alive at 23 weeks gestational and died shortly thereafter due to severe prematurity.” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2.2 allowed the children to be pseudonymed. However, in this situation, it is necessary for special reasons to pseudonymize a parent’s surname. The plaintiff’s motion to sue anonymously is here. C.R.M. v. United States (E.D. Va. Apr. 10, 2020)):
First, C.R.M. does not seek anonymity merely to avoid “annoyance and criticism;” rather, she seeks it “to preserve privacy in a matter of sensitive and highly personal nature”—a soul shattering family tragedy. This tragedy also affects the privacy of her loved ones, which includes the minor children who are now dead. The public has an interest in the conduct of government agencies, and not the names of those who were harmed by it. Third Cf. Doe v. Rector & Visitors of George Mason Univ., 179 F. Supp. 3d 583, 592-94 (E.D. Va. 2016, allowing students to sue the state university anonymously to protect their privacy and to monitor litigation that involves alleged misconduct of state actors. The government is not at risk because it already has the identities of these individuals and can provide all necessary legal and factual defenses. C.R.M. should be allowed, as the above factors are strongly in favor of this. You can sue anonymously.
Without further discussion, the court accepted the motion.
C.R.M. is a common loss.C.R.M. would sympathize with their loss and understand. The public may find this very distressing. C.R.M. If C.R.M. There may be some emotional differences among the situations. The death or birth of a child can be devastating for people. But I don’t think the law could make a distinction between death or birth of several children or a baby or an adult.
The logic of this decision—if applied evenhandedly—would thus sharply change the face of American civil litigation, with all (or at least most) wrongful death cases being litigated pseudonymously whenever the plaintiff so prefers. Moreover, any lawsuits involving permanently disabling injuries which rise above the “soul-shattering family tragedy” level would also be pseudonymized.
Perhaps that’s as it should be, and all or most civil litigation (or even criminal litigation)—at least if it involves individuals—should proceed under pseudonyms to protect the privacy and reputation of the parties. This is not the case in our system, and I think it’s a good thing. We view access to court records (including the identities of the parties) as beneficial for public oversight of the functioning court system. As long as this is not our system it’s difficult for me to understand how exceptions can be made in sympathetic cases such as C.R.M.’s.
Perhaps I am wrong. I would love to know what you think.