Filing Under a Pseudonym

Caselaw

Massachusetts has touched upon pseudonymity in caselaw:
  • Singer v. Rosenkranz, 903 N.E.2d 191 (Mass. 2009) – Plaintiff challenges denial of request to use pseudonym, attempting under Massachusetts procedural rules to get direct review by appeal court panel or Supreme Court. Instant court rules that the fact that petitioner's case involved confidential financial and medical information did not suffice to overcome the presumption in favor of public proceedings and affirms, as seen in Mass. R. Civ. P. 10 (a). The court cited federal cases in its holding, but did not apply a formalized rule.
Massachusetts courts have also allowed, without remark, other plaintiffs to sue under pseudonyms, including:
  • White v. Gurnon, 855 N.E.2d 1124 (Mass. App. Ct. 2006) – Two female cadets at state-run military academy bring action against the school and its officers for failure to prevent sexual abuse by other cadets. Both plaintiffs proceed under pseudonyms, a fact merely noted by the court. Id. at 1124 n.1.
  • Incompetent, vegetative, adult seeking discontinuation of feeding tubes. See Guardianship of Doe, 583 N.E.2d 1263 (Mass. 1992).
  • A student seeking injunctive relief and alleging discriminatory enforcement of school dress code based on gender identity. See Doe ex rel. Doe v. Yunits, 15 Mass. L. Rptr. 278, 2001 WL 664947 (Mass. Super. 2001) (Doe is biologically male but has “gender identity disorder” and wishes to present as female, including clothing; school officials punished Doe for feminine clothing); see also Doe v. Superintendent of Schools of Worcester, 653 N.E.2d 1088 (Mass. 1995) (Doe is public school student challenging expulsion for carrying knife to school).
  • A husband challenging his wife’s decision to seek an abortion. See Doe v. Doe, 365 Mass. 556, 314 N.E.2d 128 (Mass. 1974).
  • Sex offenders challenging the state sex offender registry to sue as Does. See, e.g., Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 919 N.E.2d 717 (Mass. App. Ct. 2010) (challenging “high risk” status); Doe v. Walsh, No. 07-2052A, 2007 WL 2734289 (Mass. Super. 2007) (challenging status and use of GPS ankle bracelet); Doe v. Attorney General of Com., 10 Mass. L. Rptr. 709, 1999 WL 1260188 (Mass. Super. 1999) (challenging registration in Massachusetts where Doe plead guilty to a “like offense” in Florida). 
  • Children alleging abuse and negligence at hands of state children’s service. See Doe v. Governor, 412 N.E.2d 325 (Mass. 1980).
Likewise, plaintiffs seeking damages from sexual abuse by priests when they were children have sued as Does without remark by courts. 
  • See, e.g., Doe v. Messier, 20 Mass. L. Rptr. 567, 2006 WL 619113 (Mass. Super. 2006).
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
MASS. R. CIV. P. 10 (a): Caption: Name of Parties:
“ . . . In the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties . . . .”
 
Opinions from the Supreme Court and appellate courts are searchable at http://www.massreports.com/opinionarchive/ (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).
 
Relevant Statutes
Massachusetts has codified a right to privacy, at MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 214, § 1B  (2010):
A person shall have a right against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his privacy. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce such right and in connection therewith to award damages.