The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Pseudonymity Controversy in Kevin Spacey Sex Abuse Case

May plaintiffs alleged sexual assault proceed pseudonymously, when the defendant is being publicly named?


Rapp v. Fowler is a sexual assault case against Kevin Spacey (whose legal name is Kevin Spacey Fowler), "aris[ing] out of alleged sexual misconduct involving the two then minor plaintiffs 34 and 40 years ago." One of the plaintiffs is Anthony Rapp, but the other wants to proceed pseudonymously as C.D. Should he be allowed to do so?

Pseudonymity is a rare exception in American court cases (especially in federal court), though it sometimes is allowed when sexual assault claims are involved. Here is an excerpt from C.D.'s argument for pseudonymity:

C.D. feels extreme anxiety and psychological distress at even the thought of being required to proceed publicly in this action. As a result, C.D. has reluctantly decided that in the event the Court denies his motion to proceed anonymously, he is emotionally unable to proceed with the action and will discontinue his claims…. Indeed, denial of the motion [would force] C.D. into a Hobson's choice—reveal to the world forever the traumatic events suffered as a minor at the hands of Kevin Spacey or abandon his efforts to seek justice for these egregiously wrong acts.

And here's one from Fowler's argument against pseudonymity:

Mr. Fowler categorically denies C.D.'s claims. They are simply untrue. But he is skeptical C.D. will walk away from claims for which he asserted just weeks ago he is seeking $40 million in damages. And if C.D. chooses to dismiss his claims because this Court follows the law and facts in denying the Motion, then that is no one's decision but his….

Mr. Fowler has not sought and does not seek special treatment. He simply wants C.D. to play by the same rules applicable to all litigants and those by which Mr. Fowler was  forced to abide when C.D. levied his public accusations against him.