Pseudonymity for Defendant Accused of “Professional Wrongdoing,” If Case Is Promptly Settled

IPSOS MMA, Inc. v. DoeDecreed Jan. 25, but posted just on Westlaw), plaintiff (a marketing analytics firm) sued an ex employee for alleged trade secrets infringement. The case was resolved within three months and Judge Paul Engelmayer, S.D.N.Y., took the case to trial. The case was permitted to proceed pseudonymously.

On November 18, 2021, at a preliminary stage of the case, the Court permitted the defendant to proceed pseudonymously…. [T]The Court holds that the pseudonymous identification is still warranted. However, the case has been settled quickly, for the following reasons.

First, Doe’s claims of professional misconduct were made, but they weren’t proven. Second, the case was settled prior to formal discovery.

As the Court noted earlier, Doe does not constitute a public figure and there is no litigation or motions practice, so disclosure of Doe’s identity is incompatible with the public interest. Cf. Delta Airlines, 310 F.R.D. at 225. “Delta may suffer concrete prejudices in various respects if Doe was allowed to proceed pseudonymously in a lawsuit proceeding to trial.” Del Rio, 241 F.R.D. at 159 (noting that party’s anonymity could “deprive a litigant and the court of the chance that a yet unknown witness would … know to step forward with valuable information about the events or the credibility of witnesses”).

The third, defendant was not the one who initiated the matter. He did so for his own personal gain.

Fourth, Ipsos does not oppose the motion for any reason, even if it is prejudiced by Doe’s pseudonymity.

Doe’s identity is still kept secret. Doe could continue using a pseudonym. However, the necessary redactions to his identifying data will be made. This matter remains closed.

It seems to me that this analysis would justify allowing pretty much all defendants who are accused of serious misconduct, whether intentional or negligent—malpractice, sexual assault, employment discrimination, many kinds of breach of contract—to litigate pseudonymously, at least until there is some “motions practice or other litigation.” This isn’t the usual way that courts work, according to my (see Appendix 7, of my). Pseudonymous Litigation LawDraft, and cf. This is the case). Nevertheless, I did learn one important thing while writing the article: the legal guidelines for pseudonymity were very vague and it all depends on which judge you choose to draw them.

As an aside, it is possible to wonder what a defendant The plaintiff filed the Complaint, which usually names defendants. This made it pseudonymous. According to my knowledge, the Complaint was filed under seal by the plaintiff in order to receive an ex parte TRO. The defendant wasn’t informed about this. The judge then ordered that the Complaint not be sealed (permanent sealing such documents being frowned upon) but had the defendant’s name removed.