Doe v. Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System et al
ORDER granting 46 Sealed Motion to Proceed Under Pseudonym. Signed by Judge Brian A. Jackson on 11/17/2022. (LLH)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA
SYSTEM, ET AL.
Plaintiff was the victim of sexual assault when she was a student at Louisiana
Tech University. In this action, Plaintiff alleges institutional neglect and nonfeasance
against Defendants Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System (“UL
System”), Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and
Mechanical College (“LSU”), and Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government
(“City of Lafayette”), asserting that for several years these public entities knew the
identity of her assailant—a Louisiana Tech student who had been previously banned
from LSU’s Baton Rouge campus after two female LSU students separately reported
him for sexual assault—because he was a sexual predator that had been accused of
rape and other sexual misconduct on five prior occasions, yet failed to take
appropriate action to bring him to justice. (See Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 3-4).
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion To Proceed Under Pseudonym (Doc.
46). For reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s Motion will be granted.
The following allegations are drawn from Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. 1), and
are accepted as true for present purposes.
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Plaintiff was a student at Louisiana Tech when she met fellow Tech student
“Daniel.” On September 18, 2018, Plaintiff accepted “Daniel’s” invitation to study
with him at his apartment. That night, “Daniel” raped and forcibly orally sodomized
Plaintiff. The next morning, Plaintiff reported the assault to a close friend and an
administrator at a Christian ministry. Later, Plaintiff reported the assault to
Louisiana Tech officials and to law enforcement.
“Daniel,” who did not tell Plaintiff his last name, was in fact Victor Daniel
Silva. Unknown to Plaintiff, between the years 2014 and 2018 five women reported
Silva to multiple Louisiana public universities and law enforcement agencies,
including the named Defendants in this case, for rape and other criminal sexual
misconduct—including two known sexual assaults at LSU’s Baton Rouge campus.
Rather than pursue disciplinary action, however, Defendants allowed Silva to
transfer from school to school, largely without consequence, enabling him to continue
his sexual predation against female college students, including Plaintiff.
Plaintiff learned of Silva’s serial predation—and Defendants’ knowledge of
Silva—for the first time in May 2021, when USA Today published an extensive
account of the allegations against Silva and Defendants’ response(s) to the same.1
Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated this action asserting a violation of her rights under
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C § 1681, et seq., against
Defendant UL System, and claims of negligence against Defendants UL System,
See Kenny Jacoby, Six Women Reported A Louisiana College Student For Sexual
Misconduct. No One Connected The Dots., USA TODAY (May 26, 2021), available at:
https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2021/05/26/louisiana-officialsskirted-law-meant-curb-campus-sex-crimes/7048845002/ (last viewed November 16, 2022).
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LSU, and the City of Lafayette. (Doc. 1).
Now Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in this action under the pseudonym “Jane
Doe.” (Doc. 46).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) requires that a “complaint must name all
the parties.” “This rule protects the public's legitimate interest in knowing all the
facts involved in the case, including the parties' identities.” Doe v. Compact Info. Sys.,
Inc., No. 13-cv-5013, 2015 WL 11022761, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 26, 2015) (citing Doe
v. Frank, 951 F.2d 320, 322 (11th Cir. 1992)). Additionally, Rule 17(a)(1) provides
that “[a]n action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.”
“Nonetheless, under some circumstances a party may proceed anonymously or under
a pseudonym.” Doe v. Griffon Mgmt. LLC, No. 14-cv-2626, 2014 WL 7040390, at *1
(E.D. La. Dec. 11, 2014).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit instructs that whether to allow
a party to proceed under a pseudonym “requires a balancing of considerations calling
for maintenance of a party's privacy against the customary and constitutionallyembedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.” Doe v. Stegall, 653 F.2d
180, 186 (5th Cir. 1981). Factors to consider in determining whether anonymity is
warranted include whether the plaintiff seeking anonymity is “suing to challenge
governmental activity,” whether prosecution of the case will compel plaintiff “to
disclose information ‘of the utmost intimacy;’” and whether the plaintiff will be
“compelled to admit [her] intention to engage in illegal conduct, thereby risking
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criminal prosecution.” Id. at 185 (quoting S. Methodist Univ. Ass'n of Women L.
Students v. Wynne & Jaffe, 599 F.2d 707, 713 (5th Cir. 1979)). Other factors courts
consider include potential threats of violence, the prejudicial impact on the
defendants if the plaintiff is allowed to proceed anonymously, and fairness to the
public. Compact Info. Systems, 2015 WL 11022761, at *3 (citations omitted). “Because
none of the factors are dispositive, but deserve consideration, ‘a Judge 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.” Id. (quoting Frank, 951 F.2d at 323; alterations omitted). “In the
end, the primary concern underlying the relevant factors is whether the plaintiff
likely would suffer real and serious harm if she were not permitted to use a
pseudonym.” Doe ex rel. Doe v. Harris, No. 14-cv-0802, 2014 WL 4207599, at *2 (W.D.
La. Aug. 25, 2014) (citing Victoria W. v. Larpenter, No. 00-1960, 2001 WL 406334, at
*1 (E.D. La. Apr. 17, 2001)).
Applying these factors here, the Court finds that they weigh decisively in favor
of allowing Plaintiff to proceed in this case under a pseudonym. Plaintiff’s case
challenges governmental activity, alleging that Defendants each breached duties to
lawfully respond to the known and ongoing threat to student safety posed by Silva’s
continued enrollment in the Louisiana university system. Plaintiff’s suit also
necessarily requires the disclosure of intimate and highly sensitive information
relating to her encounter with Silva, in that it arises from an allegation of sexual
assault. See Roe v. Patterson, No. 19-cv-00179, 2019 WL 2407380, at *4 (E.D. Tex.
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June 3, 2019) (“[S]exual assault claims, by their nature, involve the disclosure of
intimate details of sexual conduct[.]”). Further, the Court can find no prejudice to
Defendants by allowing Plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym: Defendants know
Plaintiff’s identity and will be able to conduct this litigation without impediment. See
Doe v. Colgate Univ., No. 15-1069, 2016 WL 1448829, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 12, 2016)
(“Furthermore, Defendants are aware of Plaintiff’s true identity and will have an
uninhibited opportunity to litigate this matter regardless of whether Plaintiff’s
identity is disclosed publicly.”).
In addition, the Court recognizes that this particular type of case, which
challenges the manner in which universities and law enforcement agencies handle
allegations of campus sexual assault, has the potential to garner significant media
attention, posing the risk of further reputational harm to Plaintiff, a harm that far
exceeds the public’s interest in knowing Plaintiff’s true identity. See Colgate Univ.,
2016 WL 1448829, at *2 (citing cases); see also Doe v. Brown Univ., 166 F. Supp. 3d
177, 180 (D.R.I. 2016) (“This case concerns an issue that has been the subject of
increasing attention and controversy, particularly in academia, and which has
garnered much recent media and scholarly commentary: the manner in which
colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault.” (footnote omitted)).
Given the nature of this proceeding, and after considering the factors discussed
above, the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s privacy interest outweighs the
presumption of openness in judicial proceedings. Stegall, 653 F.2d at 186. As such,
Plaintiff may proceed under a pseudonym in this case.
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IT IS ORDERED THAT
Plaintiff’s Motion To Proceed Under
Pseudonym (Doc. 46) be and is hereby GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:
(a) Plaintiff shall be permitted to proceed in this litigation using a
(b) Plaintiff’s real name shall be placed under seal, and a copy of Plaintiff’s
Sealed Exhibit A (Doc. 46-2) disclosing her real name shall be served on
Defendants in a manner other than through the Court’s electronic filing
(c) Defendants, their employees, agents, and successors in office, including
their attorneys, shall be prohibited from disclosing Plaintiff’s real name
without leave of the Court to anyone other than counsel of record in this
(d) On or before December 14, 2022, the parties shall confer and jointly submit
a proposed protective order enabling Defendants to seek appropriate
discovery regarding Plaintiff while still preserving her anonymity.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this 17th day of November, 2022
JUDGE BRIAN A. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
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