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Fictitious Name Proceeding Test Presents ‘Heavy Burden’

A Michigan federal district court denied a motion to proceed under a fictitious name in a challenge to the residency restrictions in Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act.

The Court noted that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure each party must have his or her name stated in the case caption.  The beginning presumption is that of open judicial proceedings.

To proceed under a pseudonym, exception circumstances must be shown,  A “plaintiff’s privacy interests substantially outweigh the presumption” of open judicial proceedings requires meeting factors such as: “(1) whether the plaintiffs seeking anonymity are suing to challenge governmental activity; (2) whether the prosecution of the suit will compel the plaintiffs to disclose information ‘of the utmost intimacy’; (3) whether the litigation compels plaintiffs to disclose an intention to violate the law, thereby risking criminal prosecution, and; (4) whether the plaintiffs are children.”

The plaintiff in this case did not meet that heavy burden.  The court cited cases involving sensitive matters, such as involving sexual assault and harassment, without pseudonyms.  “Litigation is presumptively public, and the public interest in open proceedings is especially strong in a case challenging a public Act”, the court wrote.

It noted “the plaintiff is a convicted sex offender already obligated to report his address in a public place.”  The motion to proceed under a fictitious name was denied.  See:  Doe v. Rahinsky, USDC, W.D. Michigan, Case No 1:15-cv-1140.

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Related legal case

Doe v. Rahinsky