Assembly passes measure that would permit plaintiffs in all civil cases to proceed anonymously

Legislation that would, as a default, allow plaintiffs in civil matters to pursue their claim using a pseudonym unless the defendant objects was passed out of the Assembly on a 61-6 vote.

Sponsored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, AB 2185 by Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would limit who could challenge the plaintiff’s use of a pseudonym to only a party in the proceeding. If a party fails to challenge the plaintiff’s use of a pseudonym, the court would be required to protect against the public disclosure of the plaintiff’s name in all proceedings and records.

While the bill would allow the defendant and other parties to obtain the plaintiff’s identity, the bill would gag those individuals by prohibiting them from sharing the plaintiff’s identity with anyone.

If a party challenges the plaintiff’s desire for anonymity, AB 2185 provides the court with criteria to weigh when determining the plaintiff’s need for anonymity.

The criteria includes the constitutional standards required before court records can be sealed or court proceedings can be closed but then it adds a few additional factors such as: whether identification of the plaintiff poses a risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm to either the party identified or to innocent nonparties; whether the plaintiff legitimately fears that revealing his or her identity could subject him or her to imminent actions that could result in his or her removal from the United States; and the age of a person whose privacy interests are sought to be protected.

The bill will next be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.