No Pseudonymity in Challenge to Federal Vaccination Mandate
From Judge John Badalamenti (M.D. Fla.) today in Doe v. Austin:
Plaintiffs in this case are thirty-nine individuals who are currently employed by federal executive agencies or federal contractors and have chosen to not receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Pursuant to Executive Orders 14042 and 14043 (the “Vaccination Mandates”), Plaintiffs are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Because of their status as unvaccinated persons, Plaintiffs claim that they face termination as federal employees or removal from federal government contracts. Plaintiffs therefore request that the Court declare the Vaccination Mandates unlawful and issue a nationwide injunction enjoining enforcement of those Executive Orders.
Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Proceed Under Pseudonym (“Motion”) in this action. Rather than reaching the merits of the Motion with the scant evidence provided by Plaintiffs––two affidavits filed along with a Reply Brief––the Court ordered that all 39 Plaintiffs to submit affidavits in support of the motion to proceed under pseudonym. The purpose of this order was to enable the Court to conduct the requisite legal analysis––based on record evidence––to rule on Plaintiffs’ Motion….
In response to the Court’s order, Plaintiffs’ counsel advised that one plaintiff decided to not proceed forth with this lawsuit, and 22 of the remaining 38 plaintiffs no longer desired to proceed under pseudonyms. Defendants, the heads of the federal executive agencies that employ or contract with the Plaintiffs, have responded in opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion. Plaintiffs have replied, and Defendants have filed a sur-reply. After careful review of the evidentiary record, motions, and pleadings, the Court finds for the reasons below that Plaintiffs’ Motion is DENIED. The case shall proceed forth with Plaintiffs’ true names in this public forum….
[A] party may proceed under pseudonym by establishing “a substantial privacy right which outweighs the customary and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.'” Performing this balancing test requires the court to consider whether the party seeking anonymity “(1) is challenging government activity; (2) would be compelled, absent anonymity, to disclose information of the utmost intimacy; or (3) would be compelled, absent anonymity, to admit an intent to engage in illegal conduct and thus risk criminal prosecution.” …
[As to the third question,] no criminal conduct is at issue here ….
As to the first question, the cas
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