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Three months ago, before Kevin Spacey was criminally charged in Massachusetts for indecent assault and battery, he was sued by an anonymous massage therapist alleging being forced to grab the actor’s genitals twice during a massage at a private residence in Malibu. On Thursday, Spacey asked that the case be dismissed.
In a court brief, Spacey’s lawyers argue that he will be “severely prejudiced if Plaintiff remains anonymous” and since there’s no allegation of threatened harm, they add “the party more vulnerable to threats and privacy invasion is [Spacey] given his public profile.”
The U.S. Constitution gives the accused the right to know their accusers, at least in the criminal context. Then again, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote more than a century ago that we all are endowed with “the right to be let alone.”
There’s tension in the law when it comes to privacy — and states throughout the country have handled the ability to proceed anonymously in court differently. California state court has a pretty lax standard (ask Gloria Allred), so it’s no surprise then that after this lawsuit was filed there, Spacey trumpeted how he was now living in Baltimore in order to have the case removed to federal court.
Now that Spacey is defending this case in federal court, his lawyers are telling a judge that use of a pseudonym “violates the longstanding requirement of judicial proceedings being open to the public, and multiple Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including the requirement that the Complaint identify the names of the parties and that a case be litigated by the real party in interest.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time such an issue has come up.
For example, a few years ago, a woman charged NBA superstar Derrick Rose with rape in a lawsuit, and did so anonymously. That case ended up in federal court, too, with the judge using discretion to allow the plaintiff to proceed anonymously at least during the pretrial proceedings but not the trial itself.
The lawsuit against Spacey will now move to whether his accuser can justify not coming forward. He will have to make a showing that his anonymity outweighs both open judicial proceedings and Spacey’s ability to investigate a defense.
For his part, Spacey says that anonymity “prevents possible unknown third parties with information about Plaintiff and his factual allegations from coming forward with information relevant to Mr. Fowler’s [Spacey’s legal name] defense.”
He’s also waiving off the prospect of any retaliation given that the plaintiff is said not to be a minor.
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