Florida Abolitionist et al v. Backpage.com LLC et al

Filing 46

ORDER granting 2 Motion for Plaintiff Jane Doe to proceed anonymously. Signed by Magistrate Judge Thomas B. Smith on 5/18/2017. (Smith, Thomas)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION FLORIDA ABOLITIONIST and JANE DOE, Plaintiffs, v. Case No: 6:17-cv-218-Orl-28TBS BACKPAGE.COM LLC, EVILEMPIRE.COM, BIGCITY.COM, CARL FERRER, MICHAEL LACEY and JAMES LARKIN, Defendants. ORDER This case comes before the Court without oral argument on Plaintiff, Jane Doe’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously (Doc. 2). The complaint alleges that Jane Doe was a victim of human trafficking during which time she was raped, and otherwise psychologically and physically traumatized (Id., at 1-2). Now, she seeks leave of Court to proceed anonymously in this action (Id., at 2). The title of the complaint should contain the names of all of the parties. FED. R. CIV. P. 10(a). This requirement “serves more than administrative convenience. It protects the public’s legitimate interest in knowing all of the facts involved, including the identities of the parties.” Doe v. Frank, 951 F.2d 320, 322 (11th Cir. 1992). There is an exception to the rule when “the plaintiff has a substantial privacy right which outweighs the ‘customary and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.’” Id., at 323 (quoting Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 186 (5th Cir. 1981)). Courts have found that the “substantial privacy right” test is satisfied when a plaintiff is “required to disclose information of the utmost intimacy.” Id. “In evaluating whether a plaintiff has shown that he has such a right, the court ‘should carefully review all the circumstances of a given case and then decide whether the customary practice of disclosing the plaintiff’s identity should yield to the plaintiff’s privacy concerns.’” Plaintiff B v. Francis, 631 F.3d 1310, 1316 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Stegall, 653 F.2d at 186)). Jane Doe alleges that she was eleven years old the first time she was trafficked, that she has been raped repeatedly, and sold for sex on Defendants’ website, Backpage.com (Doc. 2 at 1). These matters go far beyond simple embarrassment, they are of a deeply personal and sexual nature. In fact, it is hard to imagine matters of a more sensitive or personal nature. Jane Doe’s allegations make it reasonably foreseeable that the disclosure of her identity in this action will cause her social stigmatization. It is also reasonably foreseeably that the disclosure of Jane Doe’s identity will victimize her in much the same way the Government argues in child pornography cases that the child is victimized each time the pornographic video or photograph depicting the child is viewed. For these reasons, the Court finds that Jane Doe’s need for anonymity outweighs the presumption of openness in judicial proceedings. Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff Jane Doe will be permitted to proceed anonymously provided however, she will be required to share her identity with Defendants, in a non-public manner. Defendants and their counsel are prohibited from disclosing Jane Doe’s true identity to the general public without prior Court approval. 1 1Plaintiff also expresses concern that revealing her identity would “inject her name into the contentious debate over online freedom of speech and sex trafficking. The heated nature of this debate -2- Counsel for Plaintiffs shall cause a copy of this Order to be served on all Defendants. DONE and ORDERED in Orlando, Florida on February 8, 2017. Copies furnished to Counsel of Record creates a significant risk that Jane Doe will face harassment for her role in this litigation.” (Doc. 2 at 4). The Court will require more than a bare assertion before making this finding. -3-

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