In the case of Doe v. Teays Valley Local School Board of Education, a district court held that when deciding if a plaintiff can be excused from identifying themselves in court proceedings, the following factors must be considered: (1) whether the party is suing to challenge governmental activity; (2) whether the prosecution will compel the party to disclose information of “the utmost intimacy;” (3) whether the litigation compels the party to disclose an intention to violate the law and ultimately risk criminal prosecution; and (4) whether the party is a child.
In this case, the mother and child argued that the child has a substantial privacy right which outweighs the presumption of disclosure and that, by extension, if the mother’s identity were disclosed, it would compromise the privacy of the child. The school board made no opposition to this motion of continuing under a pseudonym. The district court agreed with the plaintiffs and that the factors weighed in favor of privacy over disclosure.
In support of its decision in favor of the mother and child, the district court explained that the first and fourth factors weigh in favor of the right to privacy because the mother and child are suing a school board, challenging governmental activities, and the child is a minor. The appellate court further explained that the second factor is typically invoked in cases involving sexual assault and courts have found that this factor favors the privacy interests of sexual assault victims. Given the nature of the claim (grooming, sexual assault, and rape), the second factor heavily weighs in favor of protecting the privacy of the child. The district court did not address the third factor in this case.
To read this case, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.