Law School Case Brief
S. Methodist Univ. Ass'n of Women Law Students v. Wynne & Jaffe - 599 F.2d 707 (5th Cir. 1979)
Where the issues involved are matters of a sensitive and highly personal nature, such as birth control, abortion, homosexuality or the welfare rights of illegitimate children or abandoned families, the normal practice of disclosing the parties' identities yields to a policy of protecting privacy in a very private matter.
Plaintiff women's group, the Southern Methodist University Association of Women Law Students, brought action against defendant law firms alleging that defendants discriminated against women in hiring summer clerks and associates. Defendants served demands for discovery demanding information about plaintiff association as well as true identities of four anonymous plaintiffs. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted defendant law firms' discovery demands to reveal the true identities of certain anonymous lawyers and to answer certain defense interrogatories.
Did the district court err when it ordered plaintiff association to disclose the identities of the anonymous plaintiffs?
On appeal, the court found that the lower court's order, pursuant to the collateral order doctrine, was appealable, as there was no plain prospect the lower court would alter the challenged ruling. The court affirmed, with one minor modification, and found that there was no statutory grant allowing plaintiffs to proceed anonymously and, while in special circumstances parties were allowed to proceed anonymously, those situations involved protecting privacy in a very private matter in a way that did not compare with this case. The court ordered plaintiff association to disclose membership information to defendant law firms but modified the lower court's order to restrict the information to certain of defendants' attorneys.
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