Filing Under a Pseudonym
Florida cases demonstrate courts allowing plaintiffs pursuing privacy claims to proceed pseudonymously. In Doe v. American Lawyer Media, L.P. and Favalora v. Sidaway, Florida courts consider the merits of pseudonymity in court records.
- Doe v. American Lawyer Media, L.P., 639 So.2d 1021 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1994) – Doe’s name is published in Defendant’s newspaper, concerning Doe’s paternity action, allegedly in violation of a state statute protecting the names of those involved in such actions. Doe appeals grant of summary judgment to newspaper and loses: the court holds that because Doe herself revealed her name by filing her paternity action under her true name, rather than a pseudonym, only amended her complaint to use a pseudonym one month later, she placed her name in public records.
- Favalora v. Sidaway, 996 So.2d 895 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008) – Named, adult, plaintiff to civil suit arising from alleged sexual abuse by priest of plaintiff as a child, makes interrogatory request for name and address of every alleged victim of a priest in the dioceses. Trial court order required “the Archdiocese to produce the names of the alleged victims and perpetrators in cases where a suit was filed even if the plaintiff filed suit under a pseudonym and the case never proceeded to trial.” The instant court held that privacy interests of these non-litigants would be invaded, and quashed the portion of the order “that allows discovery of the names of alleged victims who filed suit under a pseudonym or the person's initials.” Id. at 899-900.
- Other cases demonstrate that privacy plaintiffs can proceed as Does, without touching upon the reason for pseudonymity:
- Doe v. Univision Television Group, Inc., 717 So.2d 63 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998) – the reported opinion does not state why the plaintiff was allowed to proceed pseudonymously. However, Doe brought, inter alia, an invasion of privacy claim from a TV interview in which her identity was supposed to be protected, but was not, concerning her botched plastic surgery.
Other reported cases with Doe plaintiffs in Florida courts involve sexual assaults, and the claims are less analogous to privacy-based tort plaintiffs: Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Doe, 454 So.2d 10 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984) (adult Doe abducted and raped); Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Doe, 767 So.2d 626 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2000) (adult Doe drugged and sexually assaulted).
Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records
FLA. R. CIV. P. 1.210 (2010)
(a) Parties Generally. --Every action may be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest, but a personal representative, administrator, guardian, trustee of an express trust, a party with whom or in whose name a contract has been made for the benefit of another, or a party expressly authorized by statute may sue in that person's own name without joining the party for whose benefit the action is brought.
The Florida Supreme Court (last visited Apr. 20, 2010) provides official archives of Florida Supreme Court opinions since September 1999 and links to Florida District Courts of Appeal websites that provide some appellate opinions since the early 2000s.
FLA. R. JUD. ADMIN. 2.420 (2010): Public Access to Judicial Branch Records:
[Sets forth many authorized instances in § (d) for criminal and civil cases where the court must keep information about parties confidential, as authorized by Florida statute, even their identities in some cases, and the procedure for parties to move for confidentiality protections, which may include the use of pseudonyms. See § (e) Request to Determine Confidentiality of Trial Court Records in Noncriminal Cases for non-criminal confidentiality provisions.]
More specific local court rules for sealing records and removing the names of parties, including use of pseudonyms, are established by Florida circuits. See:
FLA. 2ND JUD. CIR. AO 2008-26 (2008)
FLA. 6TH JUD. CIR. AO 2006-082 PA/PI-CIR (2008)
FLA. 8TH JUD. CIR. AO 1.2005 (2008) (note filing as John Doe is not treated under this rule, § 2)
FLA. 9TH JUD. CIR. AO 2006-15-01 (2008)
FLA. 11TH JUD. CIR. AO 06-36 (2008)
FLA. 15TH JUD. CIR. AO 2.303 (2008)