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Attorney again denied use of pseudonym in suit

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A northern Indiana attorney who filed a lawsuit against Porter Memorial Hospital and its employees following her involuntary detention has once again lost her battle to proceed using a pseudonym instead of her real name.

This is the fourth time the federal court has denied the motion of "Jane Noe" seeking permission to use an alias in her litigation. The attorney was detained in January 2008 in a facility for people who may be mentally ill and dangerous or gravely disabled. She claimed 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.

Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich had previously denied Noe's motion three times and required her to proceed with the lawsuit using her real name; Judge James T. Moody issued the fourth order denying her motion earlier this week in Jane Noe v. Jennifer Carlos, et al., No. 2:08-cv-227.

Judge Moody ruled Noe's objections to the Nov. 26, 2008, order by the magistrate were untimely because she failed to get her filing in within 10 days of service. The judge still considered her objections for "plain" error because of the gravity of the ultimate issue, he wrote.

One of Noe's main arguments was Magistrate Rodovich's Nov. 26 ruling was contrary to law because it was issued before her reply in support of her motion was due, thereby depriving her of the opportunity to be fully heard in support of her motion. But again Noe miscalculated a deadline by excluding weekends. Noe believed she had until Dec. 1, 2008, based on Fed. R. Civ. P. 6, to file her reply to an Oct. 30 initial response by the defendants; it was actually due Nov. 10.

In response to the defendant's supplemental response filed Nov. 13, Noe should have been allowed seven days to file an additional reply, which would have fallen on Dec. 1 because of Thanksgiving Day, wrote the judge. Even though Magistrate Rodovich issued his order without giving Noe a full seven days to file a reply to the Nov. 13 supplement, it didn't prejudice Noe, wrote Judge Moody. It's clear the magistrate's ruling would have been the same even if he had not considered the supplemental response.

Noe believed she should be allowed to litigate anonymously because she says her future employment prospects will be severely impacted - especially in the legal community - because of the stigmatization of individuals with mental illness. She also argued there are many published cases allowing a person to proceed under a pseudonym; however, none of the cases she cited were in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Noe's arguments fail because in the 7th Circuit, litigation under a pseudonym is strongly disfavored and must be conducted using the parties' real names unless exceptional circumstances are present, wrote Judge Moody.

"Although plaintiff believes that her profession makes this the exceptional case, that would mean that every attorney litigating a case involving alleged mental illness could do so anonymously, and that is certainly not the law, at least in this circuit," the judge wrote.

Noe has until May 1, 2009, to comply with Magistrate Rodovich's order by filing an amended complaint that doesn't use a pseudonym. Failure to do so will result in a dismissal of this action, beginning the time for Noe to take an appeal, should she so choose.

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