Filing Under a Pseudonym
Dicta in one case reveals that Texas courts do grant motions to proceed with a pseudonym where defendants will not be prejudiced in privacy-based actions. However, the court refused to allow the interlocutory appeal by the defendant of the grant of the plaintiff’s motion:
- Topheavy Studios, Inc. v. Doe, No. 03-05-00022-CV, 2005 WL 1940159 (Tex. App. 2005) – Denying appeal of grant of pseuonym under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code Ann. § 51.014 (West Supp. 2004-05). In dicta, the court also states that “it does not appear that it would hinder Topheavy's ability to prepare an adequate defense. The order specifically allows for full discovery and states that Doe's true name may be used in depositions and in the investigation of the case as long as her name is given to only those individuals who must know her name in order to fully participate in the investigation. Essentially, the order only prevents the disclosure of Doe's true name to the media or in any public forum.” Id. at *7. Doe was a minor who lied about her age in order to participate in a topless contest that was being filmed; nude footage of Doe was included in Defendant’s internationally marketed video game; Doe sued for, inter alia, invasion of privacy based on both misappropriation of her likeness and the disclosure of private and embarrassing facts.
Generally, Texas has scant caselaw to which a plaintiff seeking to proceed pseudonymously may analogize. Courts in the following cases do not address the use of pseudonyms:
- Burdett v. Doe, No. 03-06-00198-CV, 2008 WL 5264913 (Tex. App. 2008) – John Doe’s HIV status is disclosed improperly by receptionist at clinic where he received treatment, both by yelling his name in the waiting room and by discussing that he was HIV positive loudly in a crowded restaurant. See also Texas Dept. of Health v. Doe, 994 S.W.2d 890 (Tex. App. 1999) (Doe claims HIV status improperly revealed by government employee).
- State v. Doe, 61 S.W.3d 99 (Tex. App. 2001) – John Doe challenges under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution the Texas code section under which he was indicted, for circulating an anonymous flier criticizing a candidate for public office. No discussion of use of pseudonym.
- SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Doe, 903 S.W.2d 347 (Tex. 1995) – Doe fails pre-employment drug test. No discussion of pseudonym.
- In re Doe, 22 S.W.3d 601 (Tex. App. 2000) – Doe is a female prisoner raped by a male guard. Doe’s civil suit followed a criminal conviction of Defendant.
- Doe v. Franklin, 930 S.W.2d 921 (Tex. App. 1996) – Doe is granddaughter of Defendants; claims arise from sexual abuse of Doe by her grandfather. No discussion of pseudonym.
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
TEX. R. CIV. P. 79 (2010): The Petition
“The petition shall state the names of the parties and their residences, if known, together with the contents prescribed in Rule 47 above.”
Supreme Court opinions searchable and available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/opinionsearch.asp (last visited Apr. 20, 2010).
Tex. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 51.014 (2010): Appeal from Interlocutory Order
TEX. R. CIV. P. 76a (2010) sets forth the rule and procedure for sealing court records.
TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 30.013 (2010) allows for the use of pseudonyms in actions involving the sexual abuse of minors.
TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 57.01 (2010) allows the use of pseudonyms by victims of sexual offenses in court records.
TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 57B.01 (2010) allows the use of pseudonyms by victims of family violence.