What’s up with the pseudonym at the National Air and Space Museum / “Rosary

The First Amendment case, which I mention below, is being litigated as Christie L. v. National Air and Space Museum. Why a pseudonym, given that most litigation is in the party’s own name?

Here is the reasoning given by Chief Justice Beryl Howell (DDC) yesterday:

Plaintiffs are “students, parents and/or Our Lady of the Rosary Church of School in South Carolina” (“Rosary”) who are strongly “pro-life.” On January 20, 2023, the plaintiffs wore hats emblazoned with Rosary’s name and the words “pro-life” while visiting the National Air and Space Museum (“NASM”), where they allege they were “subjected to a pattern of ongoing misconduct” by their pro -life” message caused at least five different activists, activists, employees and/or security guards. The plaintiffs sued NASM and the police/security officers involved, alleging violations of their rights under the First and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution.

Five of the plaintiffs have now filed the instant motion because they are either parents or siblings of other minor plaintiffs in the case, and they claim that they must not release their full names “in order to further protect the identities of their children and siblings.” Federal Rul. of Civil Procedure 7(b) and Local Civil Rules 5.1 and 7.” Plaintiff’s motion is granted only because “[i]In cases where the identities of a minor and parent or guardian are ‘involuntarily intertwined’, courts allow the parent or guardian to proceed pseudonymously while suing on behalf of the minor. ” Asylumworks v. Wolf, No. 1:20-cv-03815, 2020 US Dist. LEXIS 264893, at *8 n.2 (DDC Dec. 23, 2020). Pursuant to Rule 17(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a minor representative, such as a parent or guardian, to sue on behalf of a minor. Fed. R. Civ. p. 17(c).”[U]If the parent or guardian is not named, a combination of the parent’s or guardian’s name and the child’s initials shall effectively identify the child in court filings. Federal Rule 5.2(a)(3) and the protection extended to the child by federal law would be abrogated.” Eley v. District of Columbia, 2016 US Dist. LEXIS 147955, *4 (DDC Oct. 25, 2016) (quotation marks omitted has been)… [I]t It is further ordered that the plaintiffs, who are not minors, may proceed using their first name and the first initial of their last name as pseudonyms; … AND IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, except for the purpose of investigating and preparing the allegations contained in the Complaint, Defendants are prohibited from publicly disclosing the identity of Plaintiff or any personal identifying information that would identify Plaintiff by a third party. An answer or other dispositive motion in response.

The majority view is generally to allow parents to proceed with pseudonyms to protect their children’s pseudonyms (see page 1400 of Law of Pseudonym Cases), although there are some dissenting conclusions, see p. 1401 n.230. Note that several adult plaintiffs in this case (including some students over the age of 18) who are not relatives of the child plaintiffs sued in their own names.

Gag orders prohibiting defendants (including individual defendants) from publicly identifying a pseudonymous plaintiff are more frowned upon, as they are direct speech restrictions, although they are also sometimes issued (see pp. 1375-76). But in this case it appears that individual defendants will learn the plaintiffs’ names only through the litigation process, which may make a ban on publicizing those names more justifiable (see Seattle Times Co. v. Rinehart (1984)).