Privacy Concerns: Litigants’ Preference for Confidential Medical Records

From Judge William Shubb’s decision in Beitzel & K.K. v. Becerra:

Plaintiff K.K. has motioned to proceed with partial anonymity. She requests to use only her initials in all public filings due to her rare and severe medical conditions, mental distress, and the desire to keep her medical history private. She also wishes to avoid disclosing her finances. However, Judge Shubb denied her request, stating that the public’s right of access to judicial proceedings outweighs K.K.’s need for anonymity.

The court found little risk of harassment, injury, or ridicule to K.K. if she had to disclose her identity in court filings. While sympathetic to K.K.’s concerns about embarrassment and mental distress, the court stated that the risk is outweighed by the need for the public to know the identities of the named plaintiffs in this case.

The court also emphasized the importance of the public’s understanding of the case, as it involves an issue concerning the federal Medicare program. Allowing the plaintiff to proceed anonymously would prevent the public from fully understanding the facts and circumstances of the case.

Overall, the court’s decision aligns with how courts typically handle such cases, even though decisions may vary when it comes to matters involving mental illness. To learn more, refer to The Law of Pseudonymous Litigation (pp. 1410-11 & 1437-41).