United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION RE: DKT.
A. WESTMORE United States Magistrate Judge.
John Doe filed the instant suit against Defendants, alleging
that Defendants, without probable cause, had caused Plaintiff
to be declared "gravely disabled" and involuntarily
detained for mental health reasons. (Compl. ¶ 20, Dkt.
No. 1-1.) Plaintiff brings claims for: (1) violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983, based on deprivations of Plaintiff's
First Amendment right to petition and Fourth Amendment right
to be free from unreasonable seizure; (2) discrimination
based on disability, medical condition, psychiatric
condition, and sexual orientation; (3) false arrest and
excessive force; (4) false arrest and false imprisonment; (5)
assault and battery; (6) intentional infliction of emotional
distress; (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (8)
trespass; (9) conversion; (10) invasion of privacy; and (11)
negligent hiring, training, and retention. (Compl.
December 2, 2016, Defendants removed the case to federal
court. (Dkt. No. 1.) On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a
motion for permission for electronic case filing. (Dkt. No.
10.) On February 21, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's
motion, but required that Plaintiff file an amended complaint
under his real name. (Dkt. No. 11.) Plaintiff then filed a
motion for leave to file a motion for reconsideration of the
Court's order that Plaintiff file an amended complaint
under his real name. (Dkt. No. 18.) At the initial case
management conference, the parties agreed to allow Plaintiff
to file his motion for reconsideration, and the Court issued
an order setting a briefing schedule. (Dkt. No. 22.)
to the Court's briefing schedule, Plaintiff filed the
instant motion for reconsideration on March 30, 2017.
(Plf.'s Mot., Dkt. No. 23.) Defendants filed their
opposition on April 13, 2017. (Defs.' Opp'n, Dkt. No.
25.) Plaintiff filed his reply on April 20, 2017. (Plf.'s
Reply, Dkt. No. 26.)
Court deems the matter suitable for disposition without
hearing pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). Having
considered the papers filed by the parties and the relevant
legal authority, the Court GRANTS the motion for
courts possess the "inherent procedural power to
reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order"
before entry of final judgment. City of L.A., Harbor Div.
v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir.
2001); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (stating that
any order or decision which does not end the action "may
be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment
adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights
and liabilities"). Reconsideration is appropriate where:
(1) a material difference in fact or law exists from that
which was presented to the court before entry of the
interlocutory order for which reconsideration is sought; (2)
the emergence of new material facts or a change of law after
the time of the order; or (3) a manifest failure by the Court
to consider material facts or dispositive legal arguments
which were presented to the Court before the interlocutory
order. (Civil L.R. 7-9(b).)
pleadings must identify the parties to a suit." Doe
v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., Case No. 16-cv-2298-MEJ, 2016
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64387, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 13, 2016)
(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a).) In "unusual cases, "
however, the Ninth Circuit has permitted the use of
pseudonyms "when nondisclosure of the party's
identity 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) (internal quotation and modification
omitted). Anonymity is thus allowed "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. In making this
determination, the district court considers: (1) the severity
of the threatened harm, (2) the reasonableness of the
anonymous party's fears, (3) the anonymous party's
vulnerability to retaliation, (4) the prejudice at each stage
of the proceedings to the opposing party, and (5) whether the
public's interest in the case would be best served by
requiring the litigants to reveal their identities.
the Court finds that reconsideration is appropriate because
the parties did not previously brief the issue to this Court.
The Court also concludes that the use of a pseudonym is
appropriate to protect Plaintiff from injury or personal
embarrassment, based on Plaintiff's HIV-positive status.
In recent years, courts have permitted the use of anonymous
pleading where a party is HIV-positive, recognizing that
"HIV-positive plaintiffs are in a highly sensitive
position and therefore should be allowed to proceed
anonymously." Roe v City of New York, 151
F.Supp.2d 495, 510 (S.D.N.Y. 2001); see also Doe,
2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64387, at *2 (permitting anonymous
pleading based on the plaintiff's HIV-positive status);
S.G. v. Mears Transp. Grp., Inc., No.
6:14-cv-917-Orl-37KRS, 2014 WL 4637139, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Aug.
12, 2014) (finding that HIV-related privacy interests
outweighed the need for disclosure). Furthermore, in this
case, Plaintiff states that his HIV-positive status is
"now known only to [his] medical providers and to a few
close friends, " and that his family is not aware of his
status. (Plf.'s Mot. at 8.) This implicates significant
respond that Plaintiff's HIV-positive status is not
"necessary to decide any fact or legal issue in this
case, " and that "Defendants have no intention of
revealing any of this information in order to defend
Plaintiff's allegations." (Defs.' Opp'n at
2; see also Id. at 4 ("here, this case does not
depend on Plaintiff's HIV status, neither in the
allegations nor in the defense").) The Court disagrees.
Plaintiff has brought a discrimination claim based on his
HIV-positive status, necessitating disclosure of that status
in the complaint. (Compl. ¶ 508 (alleging that
Defendants denied Plaintiff "full and equal services
because of disability, HIV status, psychiatric
condition, and sexual orientation) (emphasis added).) Thus,
Plaintiff's allegations regarding his HIV-positive status
are not, as Defendants suggest, "gratuitous."
(Defs.' Opp'n at 1.)
Defendants identify no prejudice to allowing Plaintiff to
proceed under a pseudonym, particularly where Defendants are
aware of Plaintiff s real name. Compare with Doe,
2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64387, at *3 (finding no prejudice to
the defendant where the defendant could ascertain the
plaintiffs identify from the claim number). Thus, Plaintiffs
interest in shielding his identity outweighs any potential
prejudice to Defendants. Similarly, Defendants do not explain
why the use of a pseudonym in this case will harm the public
interest. See Does I thru XXIII, 214 F.3d at 1072
("we fail to see how disguising plaintiffs'
identities will obstruct public scrutiny of the important
issues in this case"). Thus, the factors weigh in favor
of permitting Plaintiff to proceed anonymously in this case.
reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs motion for
reconsideration, and will permit ...