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This Doe v. Doe case was filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court; plaintiff (described only as a "business executive") is suing defendants for libel, false light, and harassment, but it's basically a libel claim:
On or about May 21, 2019, Defendants caused to be published false and unprivileged statements directly injuring Plaintiff in his business and professional reputation by expressly stating in a written flyer … that Plaintiff is "an abuser." The Flyer identified both Plaintiff and his employer's names and their incomplete email addresses, as well as the hashtags: "#BelieveVictims" and "#SupportSurvivors." … Defendants retained and paid individuals … to distribute copies of it outside of a nearby event space where Plaintiff was speaking at a private conference sponsored by his employer.
Now I understand why the plaintiff wants to be anonymous—if he is identified, then more people will hear of the accusations against him, even if he's ultimately vindicated (or, as is more likely, the case eventually settles). But nearly all criminal defendants (except the very few whose identities have already become widely known), most civil defendants, and nearly all libel plaintiffs would prefer anonymity for the same reason; yet that's not the way that our system works.
As Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner put it (in an opinion joined by Judges Frank Easterbrook and Ilana Rovner), "Judicial proceedings are supposed to be open, … in order to enable the proceedings to be monitored by the public. The concealment of a party's name impedes public access to the facts of the case, which include the parties' identity." Indeed, even the great bulk of sexual harassment cases are litigated under both the plaintiffs' and defendants' real names.
There are, to be sure, exceptions; victims of outright sexual assault are generally allowed to use pseudonyms, for instance. Minors usually litigate under pseudonyms (whether John Doe or initials such as M.V.). Facial challenges to government actions—such as claims that a speech restriction is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face—are sometimes brought pseudonymously, with little controversy because the identity of the particular plaintiff is largely irrelevant in such cases (I was involved as a consultant in one such case). There are some other categories as well.
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