How far should plaintiffs be able to go to protect their identities in a civil lawsuit?
Neil Glazer is going to test that out.
The Philadelphia lawyer wants to conduct his massive civil lawsuit against the Nxivm defendants without the public ever finding out who the plaintiffs are.
The Nxivm defendants will know who all the plaintiffs are, of course, but Glazer wants to shield most of the plaintiffs’ identities from the media/internet by precluding any mention of their names in court filings or at the trial.
There are 80 plaintiffs altogether, but the public only knows the names of three – Sarah Edmondson, Toni Natalie, and Mark Vicente.
The others are known as Jane or John Does, with numbers. There are 58 Jane Does and 19 John Does.
I can guess the identity of about half of the plaintiffs without much effort, but, for now, at least, I am going to go along with Glazer, at least up until the time the court rules otherwise. I think I would be inclined to go with whatever the court decides as I did during the criminal trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
The Nxivm defendants are 15 people and four companies. They are all named, of course.
DR. BRANDON PORTER
DR. DANIELLE ROBERTS
DANIELLA PADILLA BERGERON
ROSA LAURA JUNCO
LORETA J. GARZA
DAVILA; MONICA DURAN
EXECUTIVE SUCCESS PROGRAMS, INC.
ETHICAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Of the defendants, thanks to their long association with Nxivm, most of them are poor to middle class, but we have a few exceptions: Clare and Sara Bronfman have hundreds of millions to be taken.
Rosa Laura Junco, while living on merely a million dollars a year or so allowance from her father, comes from a family that may be richer than the Bronfmans sisters are currently.
If a settlement is a possibility, the Juncos are as promising as the Bronfmans for financial recompense.
Raniere also may have a few million left from the Cafritz inheritance and it’s quite possible that Nancy has a few million between cash stashed and real estate she owns. The rest of them are, as far as I know, not affluent.
Let us return to the privacy point. What kind of precedent will this set?
In our legal system, which is supposed to be public for a variety of good reasons, can a plaintiff keep forever anonymous?
Can they win judgments in the millions and never be known?
This is what these plaintiffs want.
The defense is sure to argue that this lawsuit is a proactive effort. No one is forced to participate and this is, after all, about money.
This is not a criminal action. It is commonplace in America and other countries to shield the identities of victims of sex crimes from the public, but this case is in pursuit of money and some of the plaintiffs are not alleged to be sex crime victims.
Why should they have their names shielded from the same kind of scrutiny that every other plaintiff [and defendant] has to endure?
We are in interesting territory here – and I do not wish to seem hostile to the lawsuit. Just the contrary, I fully support it.
But it is worthy of debate. Precedents get set and while they may be fully appropriate in the original case, the precedent often gets used for expanding the theory into far less worthy cases.
Should everyone who is embarrassed by their deeds that led to their lawsuit be permitted to sue anonymously?
What about the defendants? They did not choose to be part of a lawsuit.
Forget for a minute that this is Nxivm. Imagine the next lawsuit that may be based on this precedent. While the plaintiffs are anonymous, the defendants’ names are blazoned in the lawsuit.
A world where plaintiffs are anonymous based simply on being embarrassed – while defendants are named – seems to be a highly prejudicial world that will embolden plaintiffs and prejudice defendants.
With that in mind, let us hear Glazer’s arguments for the total anonymity of most of his plaintiffs.
While Glazer filed a motion asking the judge to order that 77 of 80 plaintiffs now known as Jane or John Doe “may use pseudonyms in the caption of this case and in all public Court filings,” he will, of course, be revealing the true names of the Doe Plaintiffs to the Court and the defendants.
This is important to understand.
Raniere, Bronfman and company will know who the plaintiffs are.
Glazer filed a memorandum in support of his request. Here is the complete memorandum.
The basic two arguments Glazer raise are:
- Raniere-Bronfman are dangerous and known to retaliate.
- The Plaintiffs are embarrassed and traumatized by their Nxivm experience and publicity will hurt them.
As part of argument one, Glazer writes, “Defendants have a documented history of retaliatory and abusive litigation and other practices against their perceived opponents and those who spoke out (or who they thought might speak out) about what was going on behind the scenes at NXIVM. That history, combined with the sensitive nature of the Plaintiffs’ claims and the personal information about the Plaintiffs that Defendants compiled and may still have access to, provides good cause to … protect the Doe Plaintiffs from the threat of embarrassment, harassment and retaliation.”
The argument is weak, in my opinion, insofar as the defendants already know who the Doe Plaintiffs are. If they are capable and desirous of being retaliatory, they will do so, whether the plaintiffs’ names are made public or not.
Potential retaliation came into play once Bronman-Raniere learned who the plaintiffs are. The plaintiffs have already decided to risk that by joining in the lawsuit.
I personally do not think the chances of retaliation are high.
Raniere and Bronfman are up to their eyeballs in legal problems.
And I don’t think any of the other defendants are in the mood for retaliation. They are either in legal trouble themselves or do not wish to get into trouble.
It is interesting that the two men who might retaliate – Emiliano Salinas and Alex Betancourt – are not named in the lawsuit.
Alex viciously went after the DOS slaves trying to escape and Salinas’s father is rumored to be a leader of the Mexican drug cartels. I could see them retaliating but not Nicki Clyne, Monica Duran or Dani Padilla.
This argument seems weak to me.
Even so, even admitting retaliation is a possibility, shielding the names of the plaintiffs from the public has nothing to do with whether or not retaliation is in the cards.
If Bronfman-Raniere were free right now, they would retaliate, regardless of whether or not the plaintiffs’ names were made public. That would not matter to them one bit.
Glazer, along the same lines, mentions that some of the plaintiffs gave collateral which might still be in the hands of some of the defendants as a further argument to keep their names hidden from the public.
However, this is also a weak argument, in my opinion.
Whether or not the Doe Plaintiffs are named will have little bearing on whether Raniere or someone in Nxivm chooses to release their collateral.
Glazer refers to the release of Sarah Edmondson’s branding video as a further reason to shield the names of the plaintiffs.
He writes, “One episode that graphically illustrates why good cause exists to protect the Doe Plaintiffs is that a DOS victim’s branding video ‘was released during trial and published by the Mexican media, suggesting that Raniere’s alleged criminal enterprise may continue to exist notwithstanding his incarceration.'”
Edmondson’s branding video was broadcast on Televisa during the trial of Keith Raniere [May-June 2019].
However, and this Glazer may not know, Raniere did not release the collateral of Edmondson’s branding session during the trial.
I spoke with a high ranking source at Televisa who told me that they released the video during the trial because it was timely but he said Televisa had the video since November 2017, more than a year before the trial.
It was released to them while Raniere was still in Mexico.
It was my understanding that Lauren Salzman released the video to Televisa after she and Allison Mack worked on editing out screams and other seemingly coercive parts. It was meant to look like Sarah wanted to be branded to offset the idea in the media and possibly for law enforcement that it was coercive.
It was Televisa that chose not to air it until after Raniere’s arrest. Had it been up to Lauren, Allison and Keith, it would have aired at the time it was released.
But the release or non-release of collateral is not going to be impacted by the anonymity of the plaintiffs from the public. Whether the public knows the names of the plaintiffs or not will have no sway on a man like Raniere.
That won’t stop him if he has a mind to release the collateral.
However, to date, the Edmondson video is the only collateral I know of that has been released – and it was released before he was arrested.
He has had plenty of time to release the collateral of people like Nicole, Jaye, Sylvie, and even Lauren Salzman, who testified against him in the criminal trial. If he was going to retaliate by releasing collateral, he would have done so already.
Glazer makes a better point when he talks about the media attention that Nxivm has and will likely continue to receive.
“[T]here was sensational coverage about NXIVM from the tabloid press. In the nearly two years since Raniere’s arrest, that sensationalism has not subsided, existing not only on the sites of numerous established media in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but also blogs, YouTube channels and other online publications and outlets.”
In support of his point, Glazer’s civil lawsuit has generated substantial press and, if the plaintiffs are named in filings, some of them will be named in the media.
Most of them are not public figures, and the sum total of their internet search results could be tied to their role in Nxivm if their names are made public in this lawsuit.
Is it fair to keep their names outside of the public domain because it will tarnish them? It’s a good question.
The question is a lot easier when it is a criminal case, and people are victims of sex trafficking. But this is a civil case and at its heart, it’s a quest for money.
Where do you draw the line for anonymity in civil cases?
Glazer continues to paint a picture of the dangers of Raniere in his memo and mentions that jurors’ names were protected during the criminal trial of Raniere – even after the verdict. But Raniere knew the names of all the jurors.
Glazer makes a better argument when he goes into the topic of reputation.
Glazer writes that the DOE Plaintiffs, ‘Fear a lifetime of repercussions and lost opportunities as a result of their association with NXIVM, which has now become synonymous with DOS and Defendants’ most serious crimes in the public eye.”
Yes, it is true. Having your name associated with Raniere and Nxivm can have a harmful effect on your chances of employment or marriage etc. The potential for damage is immense for some otherwise largely innocent people.
I have recognized this and have removed many names from Frank Report of lower-level Nxivm members and DOS slaves because of the impact it was having on their lives.
Some people who were in Nxivm for years have never been mentioned online as members – and the mention of their names now in connection to this civil lawsuit could jeopardize their work and family life.
It is not easy to explain you were a member of a criminal sex cult but never participated in the sex or the crimes.
As Glazer argues, “Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and related problems due to their abuse by the Defendants, and this lawsuit and the accompanying press coverage will require them to revisit those traumatic events.”
Their PTSD will be made worse no doubt if they are named in the media.
And it is important to note that 50 of the 60 female plaintiffs are alleging serious sex trafficking claims.
That, by the way, is quite a significant number and suggests a far more extensive and criminal sex trafficking enterprise than what we heard about during the trial of Raniere where only one woman was alleged to be trafficked [Nicole] and only one woman [Jaye] was alleged to be a victim of attempted sex trafficking.
Now we have 50 women alleging sex trafficking – and this time it will be more than just Allison’s slaves.
Whether this will lead to more criminal charges remains to be seen.
Glazer makes another good point, even for the non-sex-trafficked women.
He writes, “The media have relentlessly focused on the sexual aspects of NXIVM, frequently including mentions of a so-called ‘sex cult’ in their stories and headlines. This may lead to the misapprehension that every NXIVM member was involved in lurid sexual abuse. No one should have to risk being tainted with that inaccurate and scandalous label, in order that they might pursue a valid claim to vindicate his or her rights… Thus, the need for pseudonymity extends beyond the claims of the sex trafficking victims.”
Glazer argues that ” The reputational risk to Defendants is small, because the national media has already covered the criminal proceedings and Raniere’s trial extensively. Moreover, Defendants Raniere, Clare Bronfman, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Allison Mack, and Kathy Russell have all been convicted of crimes for their roles in the NXIVM enterprise and face prison time.
“Defendant Porter lost his medical license in New York State for engaging in the NXIVM medical experiments, which were described in great detail in a publicly available opinion. The involvement in NXIVM of every single Defendant named in the Complaint is a matter of public record, having been disclosed in the criminal proceedings in filings and at trial…
“Moreover, the Defendants will not be unfairly limited in their defense. Under Plaintiffs’ proposed Order, the Defendants will know the real identities of the Doe Plaintiffs and the parties need only substitute their Doe pseudonyms for their real names and/or redact identifying
information from documents filed in the case. Defendants will still have full discovery rights.
“The Doe Plaintiffs are not public figures, and their identities are not germane to the public’s interest in holding Defendants’ accountable or preventing similar criminal enterprises from victimizing others.”
This last part, in my opinion, sums up the best of Glazer’s arguments pretty well.
The defendants are all thoroughly known as Nxivm leaders and most of the plaintiffs are sex trafficking victims and otherwise non-public figures. Where is the harm in granting this application?
Now, it is up to the judge.