Filing Under a Pseudonym
A few reported Wisconsin cases with Doe plaintiffs demonstrate the privacy interests needed to sustain pseudonymity.
- Local 2489, AFSCME, AFL-CIO v. Rock County, 689 N.W.2d 644 (Wis. App. 2004) – Thirteen Doe plaintiffs are employees of Defendant and union members who challenge department’s planned release of records of misconduct for watching pornography on their employers’ computers. They sue under the state public record act. There is no direct mention of the use of pseudonyms. In the Plaintiffs’ complaint, they assert that publication in the intervenor newspaper of this “highly personal, embarrassing, or otherwise prejudicial information” could cause “serious harm to the privacy and reputational interests” of the plaintiffs. Complaint, 2003 WL 25698541.
- Doe v. Ellis, 309 N.W.2d 375 (Wis. App. 1981) – Doe, a patient in a mental state institution, requests “sexual devices” and pornography and is granted the request. A state legislator releases the request record to news media without concealing patient’s identity, and Doe brings invasion of privacy action. No discussion of pseudonym.
- Suits arising from HIV infection have been brought with pseudonyms, but reported cases lack discussion of the reasoning. See, e.g., Doe v. American Nat. Red Cross, 500 N.W.2d 264 (Wis. 1993); Doe by Doe v. Roe, 444 N.W.2d 437 (Wis. App. 1989) (where Doe’s HIV positive test result, previously concealed, was only revealed for the first time at trial for medical malpractice stemming from same hospital visit).
- Adults bringing claims arising from sexual abuses also have tacitly been allowed to litigate as Does. See, e.g., Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 524 N.W.2d 647 (Wis. App. 1994) (Doe has 10 month consensual sexual relationship with her priest); Doe v. Vocational, Technical and Educational Dist. No. 4, 442 N.W.2d 604 (Wis. App. 1989) (Doe sexually assaulted by inmate released on work duty at her place of employment).
- Interestingly, a case where a minor was involved with shooting at the police, and where the incident was reported with the minor’s true name in the Defendant newspaper, the minor was allowed to bring claims under a Doe pseudonym without discussion of the pseudonym by the appellate court. See Doe v. Lee Enterprises, 337 N.W.2d 855 (Wis. App. 1983).
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
WIS. STAT. § 802.04 (2009): Form of Pleadings
“(1) Caption . . . the title of the action shall include the names and addresses of all the parties, indicating the representative capacity, if any, in which they sue or are sued . . . .”
Supreme Court opinions dating back to 1995 are searchable at http://www.wicourts.gov/opinions/sopinion.htm (last visited Apr. 20, 2010). The same website also has links to search courts of appeal opinions.