Before seeking to proceed in court with a pseudonym, it's important to consider a number of issues. Below are a few we think are particularly important to consider specific to pseudonymity and privacy:
1. Think about proceeding with a pseudonym at the very beginning of a case.
The plaintiff’s name is often used in depositions and has been cited as a reason to deny a motion to proceed with a pseudonym in a case where a deposition was already in the record.
The fact that a plaintiff filed her complaint using her full name undermined the merits of an invasion of privacy claim where one of the facts supporting the plaintiff’s claim was that the defendant disclosed the plaintiff’s initials in a deposition that occurred after the complaint was filed.
2. Check the court’s local rules for any rules governing filing a claim with a pseudonym.
You should search for any mention of “pseudonym,” “anonymous,” and “fictitious name.” Local rules are specific to the court and give detailed instructions about how the particular court functions. They may include, among other topics, information about deadlines, word limits, and fonts required in court documents. The local rules can usually be found on a court’s website, but if you have trouble finding them online, you can call the clerk of the court for assistance. Here is an example of one such local rule from the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for Multnomah County, Fourth Judicial District:
“In civil actions, the designation of a known party by a name other than the party’s true name shall be allowed only upon an order of the court. If ordered, the designation of such party shall be by use of such party’s initials or a fictitious name other than ‘Jane Doe’ or ‘John Doe’. The name ‘Jane Doe’ or ‘John Doe’ is reserved to be used for a party whose identity is unknown and the party is being designated as provided in ORCP 20 H.”
3. Even if permission to proceed with a pseudonym is granted at one point in the case, the permission may be revoked later on. Be aware of this possibility when deciding whether to bring the case.