In Doe v. Louis Leonelli et al, brought under the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Act, NYC Administrative Code § 10-1105, the court denied plaintiff’s (unopposed) motion to proceed pseudonymously.
The court stated the applicable black-letter law as follows:
Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the “title of [a] complaint must name all the parties.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a). “This requirement … serves the vital purpose of facilitating public scrutiny of judicial proceedings and therefore cannot be set aside lightly.” Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 188-89 (2d Cir. 2008). A plaintiff’s use of a pseudonym in civil litigation “must be balanced against both the public interest in disclosure and any prejudice to the defendant.” Id. at 189. The Second Circuit has identified the following “non-exhaustive” list of factors that district courts should consider in determining whether a litigant can proceed under a pseudonym:
(1) whether the litigation involves matters that are ‘highly sensitive and [of a] personal nature,’ (2) ‘whether identification poses a risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm to the … party [seeking to proceed anonymously] or even more critically, to innocent non-parties,’ (3) whether identification presents other harms and the likely severity of those harms, including whether ‘the injury litigated against would be incurred as a result of the disclosure of the plaintiff’s identity,’ (4) whether the plaintiff is particularly vulnerable to the possible harms of disclosure, particularly in light of his [or her] age, (5) whether the suit is challenging the actions of the government or that of private parties, (6) whether the defendant is prejudiced by allowing the plaintiff to press his claims anonymously, whether the nature of that prejudice (if any) differs at any particular stage of the litigation, and whether any prejudice can be mitigated by the district court, (7) whether the plaintiff’s identity has thus far been kept confidential, (8) whether the public’s interest in the litigation is furthered by requiring the plaintiff to disclose his [or her] identity, (9) ‘whether, because of the purely legal nature of the issues presented or otherwise, there is an atypically weak public interest in knowing the litigants’ identities,’ and (10) whether there are any alternative mechanisms for protecting the confidentiality of the plaintiff.
The court held that while factor 1 weighed in plaintiff’s favor, on balance, these factors tipped against proceeding pseudonymously.