United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING APPLICATION TO PROCEED AS "JANE
DOE" RE: DKT. NO. 5
William H. Orrick United States District Judge
asks me to allow her to proceed in this action using a
pseudonym “Jane Doe.” Plaintiff alleges a variety
of claims against Uber, all based upon a sexual assault
perpetrated against her by an Uber driver in Minnesota in
support of her application, plaintiff asserts that while Uber
and the driver are likely aware of plaintiff's identity,
her identity has not been disclosed publicly and she wants to
proceed anonymously because of the sensitive and personal
nature of the assault and her vulnerability to further
humiliation should be identity be exposed. Dkt. No. 5.
Defendant has made an appearance and has filed a motion to
transfer, but has not opposed plaintiff's application to
Ninth Circuit, parties may use pseudonyms in “unusual
cases” when anonymity of the party is necessary
“to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule
or personal embarrassment.” Does I thru XXIII v.
Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067-68 (9th Cir.
2000) (quoting United States v. Doe, 655 F.2d 920,
922 n.1 (9th Cir. 1981)). “[A] party may preserve his
or her anonymity in judicial proceedings in special
circumstances when the party's need for anonymity
outweighs prejudice to the opposing party and the
public's interest in knowing the party's
identity.” Id. at 1068.
pseudonym is used “to shield the anonymous party from
retaliation, the district court should determine the need for
anonymity” by evaluating: (i) the severity of the
threatened harm; (ii) the reasonableness of the anonymous
party's fears; and (iii) the anonymous party's
vulnerability to retaliation. Id. “The court
must also determine the precise prejudice at each stage of
the proceedings to the opposing party . . . whether
proceedings may be structured so as to mitigate that
prejudice, ” and “whether the public's
interest in the case would be best served by requiring that
the litigants reveal their identities.” Id.
District, courts have allowed plaintiffs to proceed using
pseudonyms in cases dealing with alleged sexual assaults.
See, e.g., Jane Doe v. Stanford University, No. C.
17-06973 EMC, Docket No. 37 (university students who were
victims of sexual and physical assault suing university under
Title IX); Doe v. Penzato, No. CV10-5154 MEJ, 2011
WL 1833007, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 13, 2011) (plaintiff's
injury arises out of “sensitive and personal matters
involving human trafficking, sexual battery, and invasion of
privacy; thus, without the ability to proceed under a
pseudonym, her injury would be exacerbated.”).
Plaintiffs have also been allowed to proceed anonymously
where the disclosure of the plaintiff's true identify in
light of the plaintiff's profession would cause social
stigma and expose them to concrete harms. See Jane Roes
1-2 v. SFBSC Mgmt., LLC, 77 F.Supp.3d 990, 994 (N.D.
Cal. 2015) (exotic dancers pursuing FLSA claims granted
anonymity); but see Doe v. UNUM Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 164 F.Supp.3d 1140, 1145 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (denying
application to proceed anonymously by a
“lawyer-plaintiff whose claim centers upon when he
became disabled due to mental illness”); Doe v. NFL
Enterprises, LLC, No. C 17-00496 WHA, 2017 WL 697420, at
*2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2017) (denying application by
cheerleaders to proceed anonymously in suit claiming
antitrust conduct by the NFL).
the harm of public disclosure of the identity of a victim of
an alleged sexual assault is readily apparent.
Plaintiff's beliefs that she would suffer further
humiliation and harm (emotionally and in her career and
social relationships) if her identity were to become publicly
known are reasonable. Dkt. No. 5 at 3. There is, moreover, no
prejudice to defendant from allowing plaintiff to proceed
anonymously. This is an action by one plaintiff whose
identify defendant knows. Defendant should have no problem
securing discovery and otherwise litigating this case while
preserving the anonymity of plaintiff.
while a plaintiffs “use of fictitious names runs afoul
of the public's common law right of access to judicial
proceedings” and therefore should be allowed only in
unusual cases where harm from disclosure is shown
(Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d at 1067), there is
also a strong public interest in encouraging victims of
sexual assault to come forward and to vindicate their rights
to relief in court. See, e.g., Penzato, 2011 WL
1833007, at *3; Doe v. Cabrera, 307 F.R.D. 1, 6
(D.D.C. 2014). I expect that most of the pleadings and
filings in this case will publicly filed and, therefore, the
public's interest in open judicial proceedings will be
met while still protecting the privacy of plaintiff.
application to proceed using a pseudonym is GRANTED, subject
to reconsideration as the case progresses.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Plaintiff asserts claims for: (i)
Negligence (negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and
negligent retention); (ii) Fraud (intentional
misrepresentation, concealment, false promise); (iii)
Negligent Misrepresentation; (iv) Battery; (v) Assault; (vi)
False Imprisonment; and ...