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Judge: Attorney can't sue using pseudonym

December 1, 2008

A Northern District magistrate judge has again denied an attorney's motion to proceed with a lawsuit under a pseudonym, finding the type of injury the attorney may suffer as a result of suit doesn't rise to the level to justify anonymity.

This is the third time U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich has denied the attorney's motion to use a pseudonym in her lawsuit, Jane Noe v. Jennifer Carlos, et al., No. 2:08-cv-227. The court denied this latest motion Nov. 26.

The attorney was detained in January 2008 in a facility for people who may be mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled. She claims she was held beyond the 72-hour limit, forced to undress for a physical examination, forced to teleconference with her parents, and denied an initial examination with the staff psychiatrist until after a day had passed.

The attorney wants to proceed with her suit against Porter Memorial Hospital and its employees under the pseudonym Jane Noe to prevent her from public ridicule and embarrassment, and to protect her medical records.

The magistrate judge considered the factors in determining whether a plaintiff's interest in privacy is so significant as to outweigh the presumption of favoring public identification, as outlined in Doe v. Indiana Black Expo, Inc., 923 F. Supp. 131, 140, (S.D Ind. 1996), and ruled Noe didn't meet the factors to require anonymity. He also wrote that her medical records could be sealed.

Magistrate Judge Rodovich also noted the prejudice against the defendants in this case if the attorney is allowed to proceed with the pseudonym. Noe showed a lack of good judgment by sending surveys that explore the application of the Indiana Code under which she was detained to physicians working for the defendants, the magistrate judge wrote, adding in a footnote that her contact with the doctors under the guise of "psychological research" strongly suggests improper ex parte contact.

Noe's accusations against the defendants include their names in the caption and they, too, have an interest in their reputations.

"By her ex parte communications, Noe has shown the precise prejudice that the use of a pseudonym here would permit," he wrote.

The magistrate judge ordered Noe to file an amended complaint under her true name consistent with the rules or else her case would be dismissed. Noe has until Dec. 5 to file the amended complaint without the pseudonym.

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