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If Pseudonyms, Then What Kind? How About "Doe WHBE 3"?

Should pseudonymous litigants, and any precedents set in their cases, be known by the initials of the law firms that represent them?


One problem with pseudonymous litigation is the proliferation of Doe v. cases against the same institutional defendant; the cases, and the precedents they set, can easily be confused with each other because they have the same name. In If Pseudonyms, Then What Kind?, published last year in Judicature (an academic law journal aimed at judges), I discussed various possible solutions, but I've just come across a new twist, from Doe WHBE 3 v. Uber Technologies, Inc.:

As plaintiffs' opening brief explains: "Because so many Jane Doe plaintiffs filed actions against Uber, they assumed additional pseudonyms utilizing the initials of the law firms representing them." Jane Doe WHBE 3 was "the third [case] in which the plaintiff was represented by Williams, Hart, Boundas and Easterby, LLP (now Williams, Hart & Boundas, LLP) (SF Super Ct. No. CGC-20-584649)."

I'm not wild about that: I tend to agree with courts that have concluded that the use of initials can be subtly "depersonalizing" or "dehumanizing," see the cases cited in nn.23 & 24, and this seems even more so with regard to these sorts of alphanumeric combinations.

Indeed, identifying a person through the initials of their lawyer seems especially awkward, though maybe that's just my own idiosyncratic reaction. (As the article notes, there have been other such alphanumeric pseudonyms before, though not quite with the same pattern.) My recommendation in the article is to follow the EEOC model of using an arbitrary first name followed by an arbitrary initial, e.g., "Angela M." Still, I thought I'd flag this alternative that is apparently being heavily used in this particular large batch of pseudonymous cases.