United States District Court, District of Columbia
August 9, 2018
Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, United States District Judge.
John Doe requests leave to proceed pseudonymously in a civil
case against him for alleged sexual assault and related
claims. Plaintiff Jane Roe opposes this motion. Although the
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit ("D.C. Circuit") has not expressly adopted
a test for evaluating such a request, courts in this Circuit
have often applied a five-factor test in cases involving
plaintiffs' motions to proceed under pseudonyms. The
Court finds no reason not to apply this test to such a motion
by Defendant, who nevertheless is unable to prevail. Upon
consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant legal
authorities, and the record as a whole, in an exercise of the
Court's discretion, the Court shall DENY
Defendant's  Motion to Proceed Under Pseudonym.
Court shall draw on the allegations in the  Complaint for
the few factual details pertinent to this motion. During the
summer of 2017, Plaintiff, then a seventeen-year-old rising
high school senior, worked as an intern in the District of
Columbia. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 6, 12. Defendant,
then a rising college sophomore, also lived in the District
at the time. Id. ¶ 10. On XXXXX 2017, Plaintiff
met Defendant, who had been invited to Plaintiffs apartment
by her roommates. Id. ¶¶ 11, 14. At the
end of an evening of drinking games with other guests,
Defendant allegedly pressured Plaintiff to drink further
alcohol and allegedly carried her to a bedroom in her
apartment, where he allegedly engaged in sexual intercourse
with her without her consent. Id. ¶¶ 11,
13, 15, 17, 24-31.
Plaintiffs behalf, her father brought this action against
Defendant, seeking damages for allegations of 1) sexual
assault and battery, and 2) negligence and gross negligence.
Id. ¶¶ 33-41. Plaintiff has since attained
the age of majority and has been substituted for her father
as the real party in interest in this case. See Min.
Order of Aug. 9, 2018.
has sought to proceed in this case under pseudonym, which the
Court instructed the parties to brief. Def.'s Mot.; Min.
Order of May 7, 2018. Upon the conclusion of briefing, the
Court held a teleconference on the record on June 14, 2018,
in order to gather further information pertinent to
Defendant's motion. Min. Order of June 14, 2018. Of note,
Plaintiffs counsel indicated that there is a report prepared
by the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences
that identifies the parties by name. Defendant's counsel
represented that although Defendant was again living and
working as a summer intern in the District of Columbia at the
time of the teleconference, he does not attend college in the
it is within the discretion of the district court to grant
the 'rare dispensation' of anonymity against the
world (but not the plaintiff), even in that situation the
court has 'a judicial duty to inquire into the
circumstances of particular cases to determine whether the
dispensation is warranted.'" United States v.
Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1464 (D.C. Cir. 1995)
(quoting James v. Jacobson, 6 F.3d 233, 238 (4th
Cir. 1993)). The D.C. Circuit has indicated that district
courts considering requests for pseudonyms should evaluate
both the likelihood of any unfairness to the non-movant and
the presumption of transparency vis-a-vis the public.
Id. (citing S. Methodist Univ. Ass'n of
Women Law Students v. Wynne & Jaffe, 599 F.2d 707,
713 (5th Cir. 1979); Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180,
186 (5th Cir. 1981) ("customary and
constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial
D.C. Circuit's Microsoft ruling made clear, at
the least, "that courts must be prepared to thoroughly
analyze motions that would permit parties to remain anonymous
throughout the course of litigation." Doe v.
Teti, No. 1:15-mc-01380, 2015 WL 6689862, at *1 n.1
(D.D.C. Oct. 19, 2015) (citing Microsoft Corp., 56
F.3d 1448). In the absence of a detailed standard from the
D.C. Circuit, courts in this Circuit have often deployed the
following test articulated in the Fourth Circuit's
James decision, which the Microsoft Court
had cited approvingly:
 [W]hether the justification asserted by the requesting
party is merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may
attend any litigation or is to preserve privacy in a matter
of sensitive and highly personal nature;  whether
identification poses a risk of retaliatory physical or mental
harm to the requesting party or even more critically, to
innocent non-parties;  the ages of the persons whose
privacy interests are sought to be protected;  whether the
action is against a governmental or private party; and,
relatedly,  the risk of unfairness to the opposing party
from allowing an action against it to proceed anonymously.
James, 6 F.3d at 238; see also, e.g., Yacovelli
v. Moeser, No. 02-596, 2004 WL 1144183, at *6 (M.D. N.C.
May 20, 2004) (quoting James, 6 F.3d at 238);
Nat'l Ass 'n of Waterfront Emp 'rs v.
Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d 90, 99 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing
Yacovelli, No. 02-596, 2004 WL 1144183, at *6-8);
Roe v. Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC, 85 F.Supp.3d 89,
96 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d at
99). "No single factor is necessarily determinative; a
court 'should carefully review all the
circumstances of a given case and then decide whether the
customary practice of disclosing the [movant's] identity
should yield' to the [movant's] request for
anonymity." Teti, No. 1:15-mc-01380, 2015 WL
6689862, at *2 (quoting Doe v. Frank, 951 F.2d 320,
323 (11th Cir. 1992) (discussing Fifth Circuit's standard
litigation is for the unusual or critical case, and it is the
litigant seeking to proceed under pseudonym that bears the
burden to demonstrate a legitimate basis for proceeding in
that manner." Quails v. Rumsfeld, 228 F.R.D. 8,
13 (D.D.C. 2005).