The American Civil Liberties Union is used to filing unpopular lawsuits in its quest to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Often the lawsuits cling to the Constitution by a coma rather than a sentence as in fact they really are far-fetched as to the alleged violation claimed.
The suit against Franklin County and Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer alleges the official used the word “Jesus” in a prayer and that violated the Constitution because it aligned the county with a particular religious faith. The fact is the presiding commissioner did not intend to promote any particular religion with his words and there was no promotion of a particular faith. Those facts make no difference to the ACLU, which filed the suit on behalf of an anonymous “Jane Doe.”
The county won a battle but not the war when U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr., overturned a previous order allowing the plaintiff to be anonymous. It is expected that when additional filings are made in the case, “Jane Doe” will have a real name. “Jane Doe” said in an earlier filing that if her name is revealed, she will be subjected to harassment and retaliation if her identity becomes public. The judge said the public has a right to know her name. That’s a sound ruling!
Judge Limbaugh said lawsuits are “public events and the public has a legitimate interest in knowing the facts,” including the identity of the parties in the lawsuit and who is using the public’s courts. We don’t know if that is breaking new constitutional ground, but it sure makes sense.
There are valid reasons for not identifying some people, especially juveniles, in court filings, but in a case such as this, there is no valid reason to hold secret the name of the person attacking the county through a lawsuit. Her claim that she would be driven from the community if her name is revealed is as unlikely as returning spittoons to the courtroom. However, this is one lawsuit that most people would like to see in a spittoon.