The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge
When she was sixteen years old, Plaintiff Jane Doe (not her real name) was engaged in a dating relationship with Defendant Jason Smith, who was a year older. The two individuals engaged in sexual intimacy.
The Plaintiff alleges that on one of these occasions, the Defendant set up a hidden video camera and recorded the two in bed. The Plaintiff claims that after the two stopped dating, the Defendant circulated the tape at their high school. She alleges that this publication occurred multiple times.
Following the remand from the Seventh Circuit, on December 20, 2005, the Court directed the parties to file briefs on the issue of whether the Plaintiff should be allowed to proceed anonymously in this action. The parties have now filed memorandums and reply briefs on that issue.
III. THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT'S OPINION
In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit directed this Court to "revisit the question whether the plaintiff should be allowed to proceed anonymously." Doe v. Smith, 429 F.3d 706, 710 (7th Cir. 2005). That court further noted that its decisions disfavor anonymous litigation. Id. (citing Doe v. Blue Cross, 112 F.3d 869, 872 (7th Cir. 1997) (noting the fact that a case which involves a medical issue is not alone a sufficient reason for allowing a plaintiff to proceed anonymously); Doe v. Sheriff of DuPage County, 128 F.3d 586, 587 (7th Cir. 1997)(observing that unless exceptional circumstances exist, all parties to a suit must be identified); Doe v. City of Chicago, 360 F.3d 667, 669 (7th Cir. 2004) (noting that sexual harassment cases are not brought anonymously in most instances)). Anonymous litigation is disfavored because the public has a right to know who is using the courts. Id.
In his memorandum in opposition to the Plaintiff being allowed to proceed anonymously, the Defendant notes that the presumption is that the parties' identities are public information, and that presumption can be rebutted if the Plaintiff shows that the harm to her exceeds the likely harm from concealment. City of Chicago, 360 F.3d at 669. "[F]ictitious names are allowed when necessary to protect the privacy of children, rape victims, and other particularly vulnerable parties or witnesses." Blue Cross, 112 F.3d at 872.
The Defendant notes that in discussing whether the Plaintiff should be allowed to proceed anonymously, the Seventh Circuit stated:
Plaintiff was a minor when the recording occurred but is an adult today. She has denied Smith the shelter of anonymity--yet it is Smith, and not the plaintiff, who faces disgrace if the complaint's allegations can be substantiated. And if the complaint's allegations are false, then anonymity provides a shield behind which defamatory charges may be launched without shame or liability.
Everyone at the high school who saw the recording already knows who "Doe" is, and most people acquainted with Smith could find out whether or not they had seen the recording. (Their dating relationship was no secret.) Now perhaps anonymity still could be justified if the tape has been circulated more widely (as counsel asserted at oral argument), and disclosure would allow strangers to identify the person in the recording and thus add to her humiliation. That question should be explored in the district court--and, if the judge ...