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 “Andrew Doe, ” is a student who has
been issued a long-term suspension by the University of
Mississippi after he was accused of sexually assaulting
another student, hereinafter “Bethany Roe.” Doe
claims that no assault occurred, and that Roe confirmed to
law enforcement that the sexual encounter at issue was
consensual. He contends that the university's
investigation improperly relied on statements by Roe's
friends, rather than Roe herself. Doe challenges the legality
of the university's investigation and disciplinary
procedures that resulted in his suspension. He contends that
the nature of the suit necessitates usage of pseudonyms to
protect his identity and the identity of Bethany Roe.
heart of this case is a sexual encounter between Doe and Roe,
which he claims was consensual and the University Judicial
Council found amounted to sexual assault. The complaint
contains Doe's detailed description of the sexual
encounter as he contends it occurred.  at 7-10. 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 Roe to doctors and police, interviews
with other witnesses, and reports compiled by the university.
Id. at 9-14.
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. Accordingly, the plaintiff should
be permitted to proceed without public disclosure of his
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 details
of a sexual encounter. 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 Bethany 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
“Andrew 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, “Bethany Roe, ” when identifying the
student who the University Judicial Council found was