Judge Says Jane Doe Can’t Stay Anonymous - The Missourian: Local News

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Judge Says Jane Doe Can’t Stay Anonymous

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Posted: Sunday, July 7, 2013 4:30 pm

The anonymous plaintiff suing the county over prayers at commission meetings may soon be revealed.

A federal judge denied a motion to allow the plaintiff, Jane Doe, to continue to proceed under the pseudonym.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. also withdrew the previous order allowing the plaintiff to be anonymous.

While the order keeping the plaintiff’s name secret has been lifted, the name has still not been put into the court record. If there are any new filings made in the case, the name could be revealed at that point.

Franklin County Counselor Mark Vincent said the judge issued the proper order under the circumstances.

The plaintiff is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit alleges Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer led prayers mentioning Jesus at commission meetings.

These prayers violated the U.S. Constitution because they aligned the county with a particular faith, the lawsuit charges.

Vincent has said that the county never did anything illegal.

The plaintiff sought a protective order to keep her identity secret. She claimed that she will be “subjected to harassment and retaliation” if her identity becomes public, court documents state.

But the court found that the public has a right to know who she is.

Lawsuits are “public events and the public has a legitimate interest in knowing the facts involved in them. Among these facts is the identity of the parties,” the judge’s order states.

The order adds, “The people have a right to know who is using their courts.”

A plaintiff can proceed anonymously in a lawsuit if there is a substantial privacy right that outweighs the need for openness in court proceedings, the order states.

In this case, “the risk that a plaintiff may suffer some embarrassment is insufficient to permit anonymity,” the order adds.

The plaintiff argued that if her identity is made public she will be “driven from the community ...”

Moreover, it could hamper the county’s ability to defend itself in the lawsuit if the plaintiff stays anonymous, the judge ruled.

Without knowing who the plaintiff is, the county said it would be unable to “explore her background and speak with individuals who can support or discredit her claim.”

The ACLU’s attorney in the matter, Anthony Rothert, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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