If asked, would you join a lawsuit as a “John Doe”?
Recently I was asked that question by a registrant who was in the process of having to consider just that.
It seems sort of fickle that we’re at a point where registrants are encouraged to come out of the shadows, to stand up and speak up to get laws changed, but at that same time they’re often anonymous “John Doe’s” in lawsuits fighting against registry rules.
From the gist of what I’ve read, modern lawsuits revealing the identity of plaintiffs is common practice since defendants have the right to know their accusers. However, in more recent years, some plaintiffs have requested that their names be withheld from proceedings in order to prevent retaliation by the defendant or social repercussions that would dilute the value of the suit’s success. Plaintiffs want assurance that they will be protected from any potential embarrassment, annoyance, injury, harm or oppression that might result if their names were divulged in court proceedings.
So, the question becomes, as a John Doe, are you assured protection, anonymity? Can you be guaranteed that your name doesn’t end up splattered over the front page of the local newspaper?
It’s been said that the only two things assured are death and taxes. So, no, there’s no guarantees.
When it comes to their names being exposed in the news, registrants have lots to lose, jobs, families, housing, friends. There are concerns, maybe not necessarily of retaliation, but of harassment, by registry officials, probation/parole, law enforcement and others. Those kinds of things aren’t “supposed” to happen, but we know the potential for them to happen is real.
But there’s also much to be gained from joining in these type lawsuits. These are where changes are being made, this is where the fight for registrant’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is taking place.
So, if asked to be a “John Doe”, do you take the chance?
It was easy for me to say “If not you, then who?”” Somebody has to do it”. “Why not you?”
But I’m not a registrant, I’m only the concerned bystander. The possible upheaval in life that might accompany this decision wouldn’t be mine to shoulder.
So, no, there’s no easy answer. You weigh the positives that you and other registrants might gain against the negatives that may cause personal pain. You make your own choice.
But, to all those “John Doe’s” who have gone before us, who had the courage to step up, who put their personal lives on the line knowing that doing so could bring a whole lot of unnecessary grief into their world……thank you, from all of us.
Too often we have a “let somebody else do it” mentality. Personally, I never gave these type lawsuits much thought, never stopped to fully appreciate the personal risks that “John Doe’s” take, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all registrants.
May we all gain that kind of courage.