United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PROCEED
KEITH BALL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is the plaintiff's Motion to Proceed
Pseudonymously . For the reasons described herein, the
Court finds that the motion should be granted.
hereinafter “John Doe, ” is a student who was
expelled from the University of Mississippi after he was
accused of sexually assaulting another student, hereinafter
“Jane Roe.” Doe challenges the legality of the
university's investigation of Roe's allegations
against him. He further challenges the disciplinary
procedures that resulted in his expulsion.
contends that the nature of the suit necessitates usage of
pseudonyms to protect his identity and the identity of Jane
heart of this case is a sexual encounter between Doe and Roe
which he contends was consensual and she contends was rape.
The complaint contains Doe's detailed description of the
event as he contends it occurred, both as part of the
complaint's factual narrative and in the form of
statements he allegedly made during the university's
Title IX investigation.  at 8-11. Doe alleges that
Defendants improperly failed to consider certain pieces of
evidence during the investigation and disciplinary hearings.
In support of this allegation, he describes in great detail
evidence which he contends is exculpatory, including
statements by himself, Roe, and other students relating to
the sexual encounter, reports compiled by the university, and
a forensic examination of Roe conducted after she reported
having been raped. Id. at 11-13, 16-17, 19-22.
Plaintiff further contends that as a result of Roe's
allegations and the university's investigation, he has
already received threats of physical harm. Id. at
22;  at 2.
legal standard in determining whether a party should be able
to proceed pseudonymously is as follows:
Litigating under pseudonyms “requires a balancing of
considerations calling for maintenance of a party's
privacy against the customary and constitutionally-embedded
presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.”
Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 186 (5th Cir. 1981).
The Fifth Circuit has identified three factors “common
to those exceptional cases in which the need for party
anonymity overwhelms the presumption of disclosure”:
(1) plaintiffs are “suing to challenge governmental
activity; (2) prosecution of the suit compels plaintiffs to
disclose information ‘of the utmost intimacy;' and
(3) plaintiffs [are] compelled to admit their intention to
engage in illegal conduct, thereby risking criminal
prosecution.” Id. at 185 (citing S.
Methodist Univ. Ass'n of Women Law Students v. Wynn &
Jaffe, 599 F.2d 707 (5th Cir. 1979)).
These factors do not form a “rigid, three-step test for
the propriety of party anonymity.” Id. A party
need not prove all three to proceed anonymously. Doe v.
El Paso Cty. Hosp. Dist., No. EP-13-CV-406-DCG, 2015 WL
1507840, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 1, 2015) (citing Plaintiff
B v. Francis, 631 F.3d 1310, 1316 (11th Cir. 2011) and
Stegall, 653 F.2d at 186). Nor are the factors
exclusive. The Fifth Circuit chose to “advance no hard
and fast formula for ascertaining whether a party may sue
anonymously.” 653 F.2d at 186. Courts, therefore, have
considered other circumstances, including whether plaintiffs
would face threats of “violence or physical harm by
proceeding in their own names, and whether their anonymity
posed a unique threat of fundamental unfairness to the
defendant.” Plaintiff B, 631 F.3d at 1316
(citing Stegall, 599 F.2d at 713).
Doe v. Hood, No. 3:16-cv-00789-CWR-FKB, 2017 WL
2408196, at *1 (S.D.Miss. June 2, 2017).
Court finds, after considering the factors of this case, that
the plaintiff should be permitted to proceed pseudonymously.
His suit challenges governmental activity, requires the
disclosure of intimate details relating to both himself and
another individual, and centers upon an allegation that he
committed a serious crime. Additionally, he claims that he
has already faced threats relating to the events at issue in
this case, and the Court finds it plausible that public
disclosure of his identity could result in additional
Court also finds that it is appropriate to use a pseudonym in
place of the alleged victim's actual name. Though she is
not a party to this litigation, it will focus upon, and has
already described in detail, extraordinarily intimate
information relating to what she contends was a sexual
assault against her. Her right to privacy with regard to the
events described within the complaint outweighs the
public's right to know her identity.
that these two individuals only be referred to using
pseudonyms will not prejudice or pose a threat of fundamental
unfairness to Defendants, as they are already aware of the
individuals' identities. Instead, granting
Plaintiff's motion permits him to proceed without fear
that the suit itself will result in future damages to either
himself or Jane Roe.
Plaintiff's motion is granted. None of his personally
identifying information shall be made public on the
Court's docket. When filing any publicly accessible (i.e.
non-sealed or non-restricted) pleadings or documents, filers
(attorneys, interested parties, etc.) shall use the pseudonym
“John Doe” in place of Plaintiff's actual
name and shall not include any personally identifying
information of the plaintiff. Similarly, filers shall use the
pseudonym, “Jane Roe, ” when identifying the
student who contends that she was ...