The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

#MeToo, #TheyLied, and Pseudonymous Litigation (II)

When can libel plaintiffs, suing over allegedly false claims of sexual misconduct, sue pseudonymously? When can defendants defend pseudonymously?


I blogged about this a month ago, but here's a newly filed case that raises precisely the same issue; it's Roe v. Does (E.D.N.Y.), and here's the key passage from the motion to seal:

Plaintiff is an executive coach, consultant, entrepreneur and non-profit director who has been the subject of a persistent, anonymous campaign to damage him professionally and to cause him emotional distress. This campaign has resulted in significantly reducing his income and has had a profoundly negative impact on his professional, civic and personal life…. These false accusations have provided salacious details designed to evoke an emotional response in recipients, without identifying or supporting information as to the alleged victim. Furthermore, the accusations have provided no specific dates, times or other information that would make it possible to refute them. These accusations are described in detail in Plaintiff's complaint….

[T]he Defendants have undertaken an anonymous harassment campaign against the Plaintiff, which falsely accuses the Plaintiff of nonconsensual harassment, sexual advances, and rape. Such allegations are undoubtedly matters of a "highly sensitive and personal nature." The sensitive subject matter of this lawsuit could bring further embarrassment and unwanted publicity to the Plaintiff, precisely because the subject matter of the causes of action and the nature of the claims themselves contemplate intent by the Defendants to harm his reputation through public disclosure.

Without necessary protective devices, Plaintiff faces a catch-22 because the defendants have defamed Plaintiff with third parties but not yet with the public at large. Either he must altogether avoid redress of legitimate grievances through judicial action against unrelenting defendants hoping they will stop short of full public humiliation; or by the very act of filing a lawsuit in his own name, he risks the same greater damage to his reputation that defendants already seek to impose upon him through the very same judicial process by which he could redress those grievances….

The pseudonymous Complaint and the motion to proceed pseudonymously aren't available on PACER yet, but apparently that stems from a glitch, and the materials should be publicly posted shortly.