Court Depseudonymizes Plaintiff, After Evidence Arises Related to Plaintiff’s Past Cases Emerges

An interesting decision in Doe v. WangDecreed Nov. 8, 2021, by Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty of D. Colo. However, it was just opened last week following a request by me to open. These sealed court opinions and orders are very rare and redaction is a preferred method to sealing. The case has been titled in accordance with the unsealing orders. Luo v. Wang.

Luo initially sued Wang in the capacity of Jane Doe. Luo claimed, among other things, that Wang libeled Luo by saying that Luo falsely accused an acquaintance of rape. The court allowed Luo to proceed pseudonymously shortly after the case had been filed, but Wang moved for a year-long review of the matter.

[Tenth Circuit]The courts consider three exceptional situations in which a pseudonym may be appropriate. (1) These are “matters that are highly sensitive or personal; (2) Situations involving a real danger of bodily harm; (3) Cases “wherein the injury sought against would have been incurred because of disclosure of the plaintiff’s identity.” These contexts are called “[t]The risk that plaintiffs may be embarrassed is too high. In addition, the Tenth Circuit ruled it appropriate to balance the public interest when considering whether an anonymity policy is justified.

The Motion was supported by two declarations from the defendant. The first one is from [Redacted]You can find out more at [Redacted]The lawsuit title titled licensed counsel and attorney of record [Redacted]In the [Redacted]This is [Redacted]. This complaint was approved after reviewing the Third Amended Complaint. [Redacted]Communications [Redacted]Defendant’s counsel and other research [she has]Perhaps performed, or at least were performed by others. [her]directions regarding the names and aliases [Redacted]It is concluded that the plaintiff in [Redacted]The case of Jane Doe is exactly the same as the [Redacted]The Court notes the case in this matter. {The Court notes [that]Plaintiff essentially admits that the cases cited are hers. Indeed, the Third Amended Complaint cites to some of them.}

Further, Ms. [Redacted]It is believed that [Redacted]The case centers around Plaintiff’s “efforts” to get a man she was dating charged and arrested for sexual assault. This allegedly occurred in April 2019. Plaintiff filed the resulting lawsuit in the [Redacted]The defendants chose not to pursue the sexual assault allegations in the case. Ms. [Redacted]Plaintiff argues that messages on his phone in late May 2019 confirm that plaintiff was angry with the man [accused of rape]For allegedly cheating upon her. He accused plaintiff posting negative information about himself on the internet. Plaintiff confronted him.[,]She threatened to sue him for his job. Plaintiff requested anonymity, which was denied by the court. However, she later asked for her initials to be used. Ms. [Redacted]Although Plaintiff claimed the increasing media attention made it necessary to anonymize, she was actually the one who contacted the media. The information was kept secret until Plaintiff’s deposition in March 2021.

Ms. [Redacted]Two pieces of relevant information were discovered. First, Plaintiff had “at least three more lawsuits against public and private entities other than the subject matter.” [her]Colorado and their clients.” Plaintiff was “confirmed to” [[Redacted]She was a defendant in a Superior Court Orange County case. Plaintiff appears to have been in a relationship with another man. Based on [her]Examine public records related this case. July 26, 2021 [Plaintiff]Three counts were convicted: California Penal Code Section 594 (a/(b),(2)(A. Vandalism); California Penal Code Section 273.6 (a. Disobeying Domestic Relations Court Order; California Penal Code 647 (j)(4) (A. Disorderly Conduct Unlawful Disclosure of Private Photographs and Recordings).

The second declaration that Defendant makes is from [Redacted]You can find out more at [Redacted]licensed attorney, and the counsel of record in court for the defendant [Redacted] case. Ms. [Redacted]Ms. Smith asserts that Plaintiff’s claim against her client was based on a relationship they had between them between November 2013 – July 2014. Ms. [Redacted], “[f]Plaintiff asserts that five years later, Plaintiff learned she had been raped. [the defendant]”During the consensual relationship.” In the [Redacted] case, Plaintiff was sanctioned $2,000 for discovery conduct that included failing to propound appropriate discovery and obstructing the meet and confer process….

The Court is responsible for weighing Plaintiff’s privacy rights against the public’s right of knowing about these proceedings. The Court first finds that Plaintiff has a privacy interest in the matter. The Third Amended Complaint outlines various claims against Defendant in respect to his alleged disclosure (and allegedly false representations) of Plaintiff’s sexual assault. Sexual misconduct includes assault falls within the “matters highly sensitive and personal”.

However, that’s not the end. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing the facts of this case and the parties involved…. “[L]Awsuits are open to the public and anyone can see the details. The identity of the plaintiffs is one example. … Plaintiff has filed numerous lawsuits, several of which involve circumstances similar to this case. Some of these she was allowed to go anonymously, while others she wasn’t. Defendant claims that Plaintiff is a “vexatious litigant.” This goes directly to Plaintiff’s credibility, and Defendant should not be hampered in pursuing that defense…. [A] court may consider “whether proceeding anonymously creates ‘a unique threat of fundamental unfairness to the defendant'” …

This case should be decided by the public. This will not happen, however, the Defendant would be greatly prejudiced if he was forced to defend himself publically while “Plaintiff can hurl.” [her]Anonymity is a cover for accusations

This isn’t a case where the “injury litigated against” would have been incurred due to the revelation of plaintiff’s identity. This lawsuit is based solely on the alleged disclosures of Plaintiff’s injuries by the Defendant. This means that Plaintiff is not suing this Court to stop the disclosure. [her]Private [matter]; rather, [s]He sued for damages for the disclosures that he already made.”

Plaintiff claims that forcing her to disclose her identity could lead her to being revictimized. This is an important concern in such cases. But this case isn’t typical. Defendant also claims Plaintiff was a victim in sexual assault. [See the Answer for more details on this, which seemingly involves dissemination of a “private photograph” allegedly “altered” by Plaintiff “to make it look as though Defendant were engaged in lewd acts.” -EV] {Again, the Court recognizes that Plaintiff denies doing so.} Plaintiff isn’t accused that Defendant sex assaulted her. To put it another way, there is no need for Defendant to disclose any information about the assault. This particular case may present a risk of victimization due to the prejudice suffered by Defendant, the nature of defenses and claims of the parties.

When deciding whether or not to allow Plaintiff to use a pseudonym in the matter, the Court took into account all of the relevant facts. The Court finds that Plaintiff should be disqualified from proceeding under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” in this case. …

The Court recognizes that Plaintiff was allowed to use a pseudonym for some other cases. This could lead to the Court violating any other court orders. Plaintiff asserts the same. This is why the Court, pursuant to D.C.Colo.LCivR 7.2, directs the Clerk to put under [seal] this Order, the Motion filed at ECF 101, the Response filed at ECF 105, and the Reply filed at ECF 109 until further order of the Court….

My motion to undeal the order was granted by the court. The court acknowledged that the concerns it had about the pseudonymization orders of other courts could be addressed through partial redactions and not outright sealing. The other cases can be identified, I believe, with some searching, based upon filings in the case, which include a plaintiff’s filing; however, the court believes it must take modest steps to make that difficult, and not just publically identify the pseudonymized cases as being filed by Luo.