Filing Under a Pseudonym
Missouri courts of appeal considered a motion to proceed pseudonymously in one case but held that it lacked jurisdiction. It noted some of the parties’ argument resulting in denial of pseudonymity at the trial court. The reason, emotional harm, provides an example of what is insufficient in Missouri to proceed pseudonymously, and provides an example of a lower threshold for analogy.
- Doe v. Visionaire Corp., 13 S.W.3d 674 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000) – Doe plaintiffs, husband and wife, filed a petition to proceed pseudonymously, arguing that “further emotional pain, embarrassment and humiliation” would result if they pursued their subsequently filed action for invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful discharge, with true names. Id. at 675. The trial court initially granted the petition and Does filed the action. Defendant moved to set aside the ex parte order, arguing that fear of embarrassment is insufficient to overcome the presumption of open courts. The trial court agreed. On appeal, the instant court found it lacked jurisdiction, noting that under Missouri procedural rules, a denial of petition to proceed pseudonymously resulting in a dismissal without prejudice is not appealable. Id. at 676. The court did not discuss the proper balancing test for pseudonymity.
In two cases appellate judges make a nod to the trial court grants to proceed pseudonymously, but they have underlying claims relating to the sexual abuse of minors and therefore do not provide extremely helpful analogies for adult privacy plaintiffs.
- Complaint at ¶ 1, 2002 WL 33007500, Doe v. O'Connell, 146 S.W.3d 1 (Mo. Ct. App. 2004) (No. 02CC-001538)– Plaintiff notes true identity of Doe provided in separate cover. Doe was minor at time of sexual abuse by priest and Bishop.
- Doe v. Hamilton, 202 S.W.3d 621 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006) – Court notes that Doe’s motion to proceed pseudonymously was granted. Id. at 622. Doe was sexually abused as a minor.
Without note, Missouri courts of appeal have allowed convicted sex offenders to challenge sex offender registry laws using Doe pseudonyms. See Doe v. Worsham, 290 S.W.3d 809 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009); Doe v. Merritt, 261 S.W.3d 672 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008).
In addition, a class action challenging the administration of state low-income health benefits is brought by a “named” Doe plaintiff. See Doe v. Missouri Dept. of Social Services, 280 S.W.3d 110 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009).
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
MO. SUP. CT. R. 55.02 (2010) provides, in part, "In the petition, the title of the civil action shall include the names of all the parties."
Supreme Court and appellate opinions dating back to 1997 are searchable at http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=12086&dist=Opinions (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).
MO. REV. STAT. § 191.657 (2010) provides for general confidentiality of HIV related records.
MO. REV. STAT. § 211.321 (2010) provides for confidentiality of juvenile court records.
MO. REV. STAT. § 630.140(5) (2010) provides for confidentiality of mental health records in court records.
Mo. S. Ct. Op. Rule 4.24 (2010) provides for confidentiality of many types of records and allows for sealing other records for “good cause shown.”