United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING UNOPPOSED MOTION TO PROCEED UNDER
PSEUDONYMS (DOC. 6)
K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
October 17, 2019, Plaintiffs John Doe, Jane Doe, Daughter
Doe, Mother Doe, and Father Doe (“Doe
Plaintiffs”) filed a motion to proceed under pseudonyms
in this case. (Doc. 6.) The Court allowed Doe Plaintiffs to
file under seal four exhibits to the motion, including the
declaration of John Doe and Daughter Doe and evidence of
their employment with the United States government.
(See Docs. 9, 14, 21.) Jane Doe, Mother Doe, and
Father Doe are relatives of John Doe and Daughter Doe, who
are Iranian nationals and employees of the U.S. government,
and Doe Plaintiffs fear retaliation from the Iranian
government if their identities are made public. (See
Doc. 6 at 8.)
appeared in the case on October 30, 2019, (see Doc.
12), and the Court directed Defendants to file an opposition
or statement of non-opposition, if any, to the motion to
proceed under pseudonyms by November 7, 2019. (Doc. 16.)
Defendants have not filed an opposition or statement of
non-opposition, and the motion is therefore deemed unopposed.
reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs'
a party's use of a pseudonym may “run afoul of
the public's common law right of access to judicial
proceedings, ” Does I thru XXIII v. Advanced
Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067 (9th Cir. 2000),
“[t]he normal presumption in litigation is that parties
must use their real names.” Doe v. Kamehameha
Sch./Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, 596 F.3d 1036, 1042
(9th Cir. 2010). However, parties may proceed under
pseudonyms “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. The Ninth
Circuit allows parties to proceed anonymously where
protection of the party's identity “is necessary .
. . to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule or
personal embarrassment.” Does I thru XXIII,
214 F.3d at 1067-68 (quoting United States v. Doe,
655 F.2d 920, 922 n.1 (9th Cir. 1981)).
cases where a party's request to proceed pseudonymously
is based on a fear of retaliation, the district court should
consider the following factors: (1) the severity of the
threatened harm; (2) the reasonableness of the anonymous
party's fears; and (3) the anonymous party's
vulnerability to such retaliation. Id. at 1068;
see also Doe, 655 F.2d at 922 n.1 (using pseudonyms
for prison inmate appellant because he “faced a serious
risk of bodily harm” if his role as a government
witness were disclosed); Doe v. Madison School Dist. No.
321, 147 F.3d 832, 833 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998) (allowing
plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym because she feared
retaliation from the community).
district court has wide discretion to determine whether a
party may proceed pseudonymously, and the district
court's decision will not be reversed unless the decision
relies on an erroneous view of the law, makes an erroneous
assessment of the evidence, or strikes an unreasonable
balance of the relevant factors. See Does I thru
XXIII, 214 F.3d at 1069.
Court finds Doe Plaintiffs have shown a compelling need for
anonymity through the motion and their sealed declarations
and will allow them to proceed under pseudonyms.
Specifically, Doe Plaintiffs have shown that the potential
retaliation from the Iranian government is severe, Doe
Plaintiffs' fear of retaliation is reasonable, and Doe
Plaintiffs are vulnerable to such retaliation if their
identities and the U.S. government employment of John Doe and
Daughter Doe are made public. See Does I thru XXIII,
214 F.3d at 1068; (Doc. 6 at 8-10.)
retaliation from a foreign government is recognized by the
Ninth Circuit and other district courts as a sufficient basis
to proceed anonymously. See Does I thru XXIII, 214
F.3d at 1063, 1065, 1071 (considering possible retaliation by
the Chinese government against Chinese national plaintiffs
residing in Saipan and their family members residing in China
as supporting the use of pseudonyms); International
Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, No. TDC-17-0361,
2017 WL 818255, at *2-3 (D. Md. Mar. 1, 2017); Doe v.
U.S. Dep't of State, No. 1:15-cv-01971, 2015 WL
9647660, at *3 (D.D.C. Nov. 3, 2015). Finally, Doe
Plaintiffs' request is unopposed, and Defendants have not
shown any reason the motion should not be granted.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
Plaintiffs' motion to proceed under pseudonyms, ...