Filing Under a Pseudonym
A Kansas case demonstrates that Kansas Supreme Court allows pseudonymous plaintiffs and adopts a nine factor test derived from federal caselaw.
- Unwitting Victim v. C.S., 47 P.3d 392 (Kan. 2002) – Plaintiff sued his ex-fiance for giving him herpes. He filed under the pseudonym “Unwitting Victim.” In considering the issue of pseudonymous plaintiffs for the first time, the Kansas court first interpreted KAN. STAT. ANN. § 60-207. There was no previous Kansas caselaw on point, so the court turned to Tenth Circuit cases, which “convinced [the court] that § 60-210(a) should not act as an absolute bar to suits identifying a plaintiff by a pseudonym. Although pseudonymous or pseudonymous litigation is an atypical procedure, where an important privacy interest outweighs the public interest in the identity of the plaintiff, the plaintiff should be allowed to proceed anonymously.” Id. at 398. Second, the court adopted an abuse of discretion standard to evaluate a trial court’s ruling on a motion to proceed pseudonymously. The court then adopted a procedure for filing pseudonymously from Joan Steinman, Public Trial, Pseudonymous Parties: When Should Litigants be Permitted to Keep Their Identities Confidential, 37 Hastings L.J. 1 (1985). Fourth, the court adopted the balancing test from a Tenth Circuit case, M.M. v. Zavaras, 139 F.3d 798 (10th Cir. 1998)—a district court must weigh the plaintiff's claimed right to privacy against the countervailing public interest militating against pseudonymity—to assess the merits of pseudonymity. The court adopted the nine factors listed in Steinman, supra, to use in the balancing test. In the instant case, the Plaintiff alleged catching an STD and worked in the heath care industry as a hygienist, and the trial court disallowed the pseudonym. The Court applied the new balancing test and held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in denying the use.
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
KAN. STAT. ANN. § 60-210 (2009): Pleadings allowed, forms of motions and petitions:
(a) Caption; names of parties. Every pleading shall contain a caption setting forth the name of the court, the title of the action, the file number, and a designation as in K.S.A. 60-207 (a). In the petition the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties, but in other pleadings it is sufficient to state the name of the first party on each side with an appropriate indication of other parties.
Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Opinions are fully searchable at the Kansas Judicial Branch website (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).
KAN. STAT. ANN. § 45-221 (2009): Certain records not required to be open
This statute determines which public records are to be maintained confidentially, but does not on its face mention court records.