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The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that in the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties, and the language of Title VII establishes no exception to the general principle that the identity of the parties to a lawsuit should not be concealed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a).
Appellant Southern Methodist University (SMU) Association of Women Law Association and Lawyers A, B, C and D (A-D), four female lawyers seeking to proceed anonymously, brought action against appellee law firms alleging that they discriminated against women in hiring summer clerks and associates. Appellees served demands for discovery demanding information about appellant as well as true identities of four anonymous plaintiffs. The lower court directed appellant to answer and disclose the requested information, and appellant sought review. Appellees claimed the lower court order was not appealable.
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 appellant to disclose membership information to appellees but modified the lower court's order to restrict the information to certain of appellees' attorneys.