Judge Rules Against Anonymous Plaintiff in #TheyLied Libel Suit Arising from Alleged Stealthing by Minor

Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman last week rejected a motion by DL to participate in a #TheyLied libel lawsuit using pseudonyms.

The judge’s ruling came after Plaintiff dated ES from September 2021 to January 2022 when they were in high school. On December 18, 2021, Plaintiff and ES were having intercourse when Plaintiff removed his condom without ES’s knowledge. The lawsuit, followed by sealed pleadings and filings, was filed by Defendant, ES, and ES’s mother in May 2022 in Utah state court against Plaintiff and his parents.

In the current case, Plaintiff claims libel, public disclosure of private facts, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff sexually assaulted his daughter in high school in an email to a member of the board of his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, and made similar statements to sororities affiliated with the University of Austin at Texas. According to Plaintiff, these mailings contained the unredacted complaint from the Utah civil suit. The plaintiff then sought leave to proceed under pseudonyms concurrently with his complaint.

Plaintiff focuses his argument on the fact that the allegations involve sexual assault and therefore disclosure of the utmost intimacy information, citing Doe v. Trustees of Socorro Indep. Sch. Dist. The plaintiff’s arguments were based on cases involving “matters of the utmost intimacy: details of sexual misconduct” and the public interest in protecting the identities of victims of sexual assault. However, the judge found that certain factual details diminished Plaintiff’s risk and did not demonstrate vulnerability that would warrant proceeding anonymously.

ES, a victim of the alleged sexual assault, has also testified about her experience, co-founded an organization that lobbies for anti-stealthing legislation and was featured in various media outlets about the issue. As a result, the judge found Plaintiff’s concerns about protecting ES’s reputation unpersuasive.

Lastly, the judge rejected Plaintiff’s claims that using pseudonyms is necessary to avoid violating the Utah state court’s order classifying previous state litigation, indicating that the state court order does not affect the ability of Plaintiff and Defendant to proceed using their real names in this case.

In conclusion, the court denied Plaintiff’s request to use a pseudonym, asserting that the plaintiff failed to show any grounds for anonymity other than the risk of embarrassment or reputational damage. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue monetary damages against Defendant, he must be willing to do so publicly.

Karen C. Burgess, Stacy Rogers Sharp, and Katie Dolan-Galaviz (Burgess Law PC) and Sherrard (Butch) Hayes (Weisbart Springer Hayes LLP) represent JS.

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