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Roe v. Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 26, 2015

JANE ROE, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNABEI & WACHTEL PLLC, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For JANE ROE, Plaintiff: Eric James Menhart, LEXERO LAW FIRM, WASHINGTON, DC.

For BERNABEI & WACHTEL PLLC, LYNNE BERNABEI, Defendants: Laura Nachowitz Steel, LEAD ATTORNEY, WILSON ELSER MOSKOWITZ EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP, Washington, DC.

For MEIXING REN, Defendant: Alan Robert Kabat, LEAD ATTORNEY, BERNABEI & WACHTEL, PLLC, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge

Plaintiff, who is proceeding under a pseudonym without leave of the Court, was the victim of sexual harassment by her supervisor at Phoenix Satellite Television (U.S.) Inc. She was able to capture one of the instances of harassment on video, a recording which she shared with certain individuals in connection with an EEOC sexual harassment claim. That video ultimately became public as a result of her coworkers' Title VII claims against Phoenix. Plaintiff filed this suit against one coworker, Meixing Ren, the lawyer representing her coworkers in their Title VII claims, Lynne Bernabei, and Bernabei's law firm, Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC (" B& W" ), for copyright infringement, a RICO violation, and a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the latter against Ren only). Currently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the Complaint and Plaintiff's belated motion for leave to proceed under a pseudonym. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motions to dismiss and DENIES the motion for leave to proceed under a pseudonym.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a journalist who began her career with Phoenix in 2011. (Compl. ¶ 18). She was sexually harassed by a supervisor on or about September 6, 2012, and managed to record the interaction -- in which the supervisor aggressively moved towards her and touched her inappropriately -- using her iPhone's video camera, which was hidden in her purse. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 19-20). The resulting video was one minute and fifty-three seconds long. ( Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff applied for and received a copyright registration of the video in October 2013. ( Id. ¶ 25; Ex. 2).

Following the September 2012 incident, Plaintiff considered bringing a sexual harassment claim, although she had no interest in publicly disclosing the video. ( Id. ¶ 27). Concerned that the video was valuable and not backed up, she attempted to email the video to herself but was unsuccessful. ( Id. ¶ 28). On September 11, 2012 she contacted several coworkers, including Ren, to discuss her options. ( Id. ¶ 29). She showed the video to Ren and then subsequently met with Ren and a third co-worker offsite. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 30-31). During the meeting Ren suggested Plaintiff email him a copy of the video, expressing concerns about preserving the evidence

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and stating that the file would be used for backup purposes only. ( Id. ¶ 32). Although Plaintiff agreed, she had trouble transmitting the file both via email and text due to its size. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 33-34). Plaintiff stayed at Ren's home from September 12, 2012 to September 16, 2012, and before she left she agreed to allow Ren -- who again had expressed concerns about preserving the video -- to back up the video onto his computer. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 35-36).

Subsequently, Plaintiff retained counsel and filed an EEOC Complaint. She showed the video to the EEOC but did not provide them with a copy. ( Id. at ¶ 38). She ultimately settled her claims against Phoenix, and did not " use, share, display or publicly release the video for any purpose after her case was settled." ( Id. ¶ 38-40). She never showed it to Phoenix or any family members, but kept the video as a " means of last resort" should she need to prove the truth of her allegations. ( Id. ΒΆ 39). Plaintiff does not allege that she had any intention of marketing ...


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