Filing Pseudonymously: Illinois


  1. Illinois
  1. Illinois

    1. Caselaw

      Two reported cases provide good examples for a privacy claims plaintiff seeking to proceed pseudonymously, as they revolve around protecting reputation.

      • Doe v. TCF Bank Illinois, FSB, 707 N.E.2d 220 (Ill. App. Ct.1999) – Doe, debtor of Defendant, sues for Defendant’ s disclosure to Doe’ s wife of his debt. Invasion of privacy claim. Court notes only that John Doe is not Plaintiff’ s name.

      • Doe v. Department of Professional Regulation, 606 N.E.2d 389 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992) – Doe seeks injunction to prevent administrative complaint by professional board stemming from irrevocable trusts made in Doe’ s name by a former patient, without Doe’ s knowledge or consent. No discussion of pseudonym.

      • One case involves pseudonyms for both plaintiff and defendant.

      • Doe v. Doe, 668 N.E.2d 1160 (Ill. App. Ct. 1996) – Plaintiff Jane Doe alleges her uncle, attorney John Doe, sexually molested her for several years when she was a minor. The court examines John Doe’ s request for pseudonyms under 735 ILL. COMP. STAT. 2-401(e), which the state rule of civil procedure for parties’ names and pseudonyms. The holding is not relevant as it is the defendant seeking a pseudonym, but the statute is.

      Cases involving medical privacy could be used to draw analogies. Illinois has several reported cases with Doe plaintiffs, but the opinions generally do not address the reason for use of the pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Illinois Dept. of Professional Regulation, 793 N.E.2d 119 (Ill. App. Ct. 2003) – Doe’ s doctor uses mental health records improperly; Doe seeks injunction to prevent further disclosure of the records. No discussion of pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Illinois State Medical Inter-Insurance Exchange, 599 N.E.2d 983 (Ill. App. Ct. 1992) – Doe is victim of medical malpractice. No discussion of pseudonym.

      • West Side Organization Health Services Corp. v. Thompson, 391 N.E.2d 392 (Ill. App. Ct. 1979) – Does treated at a drug treatment center, seeking injunctive relief to prevent re-allocation of government funds away from the center. No discussion of pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Channon, 781 N.E.2d 517 (Ill. App. Ct. 2002) – Doe involuntarily admitted to psychiatric unit; claims false imprisonment. No discussion of pseudonym.

      Other cases involve AIDS exposure, and are somewhat more distinguishable due to statutory protections regarding AIDS status:

      • Doe v. Noe No. 1, 707 N.E.2d 588 (Ill. App. Ct. 1998) – Doe is ob-gyn patient of Noe (also a pseudonym) who subsequently dies of AIDS; Doe never consented to be treated by a doctor with AIDS and sues for emotional distress. No mention.

      • Majca v. Beekil, 701 N.E.2d 1084 (Ill. 1998) – Doe plaintiffs are treated by dental students, one of which, Dr. Noe, has AIDS, but doesn’ t disclose this fact which comes out after treatment. Tort claims. Brief mention that Does and Noe are fictitious names as per § 735 ILCS 5/2-401(e), that “ upon application and for good cause shown the parties may appear under fictitious names.”

      • Doe v. Surgicare of Joliet, Inc., 643 N.E.2d 1200 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994) – Doe stuck with unclean needle but Defendant does not reveal this fact to Doe for months. Tort claims. No discussion of pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Dilling, 888 N.E.2d 24 (Ill. 2008) – Parents of Doe’ s recently deceased fiancé tell her he did not die of AIDS when in fact he did; she does not test or treat herself in timely manner. Claims for fraudulent misrepresentation. No mention of pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Chand, 781 N.E.2d 340 (Ill. App. Ct. 2002) – Doe’ s doctor violates state statute and reveals Doe has AIDS; statutory damages. No mention of pseudonym.

      • Doe v. Burgos, 638 N.E.2d 701 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994) – Doe is correctional officer bitten by inmate; seeks injunction for inmate to have AIDS tests and results. No mention of pseudonym.

      Illinois caselaw has many other, more distinguishable cases where civil plaintiffs sue as Does.

      Sexual assault or abuse of minors bringing civil suits as Does are plentiful, but protected with extra legislative heft (see below): Doe A. v. Diocese of Dallas, 885 N.E.2d 376 (Ill. App. Ct. 2008); Doe v. Goff, 716 N.E.2d 323 (Ill. App. Ct. 1999); In re Doe, 703 N.E.2d 413 (Ill. App. Ct. 1998); Doe v. Hinsdale Tp. High School Dist., 905 N.E.2d 343 (Ill. App. Ct. 2009); Doe v. Dimovski, 783 N.E.2d 193 (Ill. App. Ct. 2003). One case with an adult Doe plaintiff seeking damages from a sexual assault does acknowledge that the lower court’ s grant of leave to proceed under a pseudonym is evidence for the showing of the plaintiff’ s mental distress from her assault. Doe v. Terra Properties, Inc., 632 N.E.2d 665 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994); see also Doe v. Roe, 81 N.E.2d 640 (Ill. App. Ct. 1997) (Doe sues her attorney, Roe, for coercing her into sexual relations during her divorce proceeding).

      Family law cases such as Roe v. Jewish Children' s Bureau of Chicago, 790 N.E.2d 88 (Ill. App. Ct. 2003), involving misrepresentations of mental health of child being adopted, implicate family concerns that may be far afield from the interests of a privacy tort plaintiff, and consequently a poor analogy.

    2. Filing Requirements & Availability of Court Records

      735 ILL. COMP. STAT. 2-401(e)

      “ . . . (e) Upon application and for good cause shown the parties may appear under fictitious names.”

      Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court Opinions are available from the Illinois Courts website(last visited Apr. 20, 2010).

    3. Relevant Statutes

      • 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. 405/1-8 (2010): Confidentiality and accessibility of juvenile court records

        [In general it protects juvenile court records.]

      • 735 ILCS 5/2-401(e): Party

        1. Introduction

          If a victim of non-consensual publication of intimate images (a “WMC victim”) would like to protect her/his identity, s/he may petition the court for the right to proceed under a fictitious name. Generally, the right to bring suit under a pseudonym is disfavored by the courts, under the principle that “the public has a right to know who is utilizing the courts that its tax dollars support.”1 Therefore, a plaintiff will be granted a motion to proceed under a fictitious name only upon a showing of “good cause.” Illinois courts have held that protecting the privacy of vulnerable parties, such as children and victims of rape, constitutes “good cause” to use a fictitious name. Because there are no reported cases of victims of non-consensual publication of intimate images proceeding under fictitious names in Illinois, it is unclear whether a court would consider the privacy concerns of such victims “good cause.”

          Courts are unlikely to allow defendants of non-consensual publication of online images to proceed under a pseudonym because potential harm to the defendant’s reputation is insufficient to justify the use of a pseudonym.2 Furthermore, defendants cannot compel plaintiffs to use a fictitious name in order to protect their own identity.3

        2. Text of Statute(s)

          § 2-401. Designation of parties – Misnomer


          (e) Upon application and for good cause shown the parties may appear under fictitious names.

        3. Cases

          1. Doe v. Doe, 282 Ill.App.3d 1078 (1996)

            • Procedural Posture: Plaintiff filed an interlocutory appeal from an order prohibiting her from disclosing her name or the defendant’s name in a case alleging sexual molestation by the plaintiff’s uncle while the plaintiff was a minor.

            • Law: pseudonym law - 735 ILCS 5/2-401(e)

            • Facts: Plaintiff, alleging that her uncle sexually molested her for seven years while she was a minor, threatened to disclose her name after having filed a complaint using fictitious names for both parties at the request of the defendant. Defendant, an attorney, was granted an ex-parte emergency order prohibiting Plaintiff from disclosing their identities. Plaintiff’s motion to vacate the ex-parte order was denied. Defendant argued that potential harm to his reputation and to his wife and children justifies requiring both parties to proceed under fictitious names.

            • Outcome: The court found that the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the order prohibiting plaintiff from disclosing the parties’ identities. The judge held that damage to a defendant’s reputation is insufficient justification to use fictitious names and there is no justification to force a plaintiff to use a pseudonym against her/his wishes.4

        4. Practice Pointers

          Due to the presumption against allowing parties to proceed under a pseudonym, WMC victims may also consider asking leave of the court to file redacted versions of records or filing documents under seal in order to protect private images or facts.

    1. A.P. v. M.E.E., 354 Ill. App. 3d 989, 1003 (2004), citing Coe v. County of Cook, 162 F.3d 491, 498 (7th Cir. 1998).
    2. See Doe v. Doe, 282 Ill. App. 3d. 1078 (1996).
    3. Id. at 1082.
    4. Doe v. Doe, 282, Ill. App.3d 1078, 1088-1089 (1996).
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