Bill to protect identities of immigrants and crime victims in court proceedings passes Assembly

Measure would create a standard process for applying for “Doe status”

SACRAMENTO — Legislation authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) to protect the identities of immigrants and crime victims in California courts passed the Assembly Monday, May 21. Assembly Bill 2185 would create a standardized process for receiving anonymous status in court proceedings and require courts to consider relevant factors, including fear of deportation, when determining the need for anonymity. 

“We are better served when our entire community feels safe participating in our court system,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “In the context of Donald Trump and an emboldened deportation force, many law-abiding immigrants are wary of reporting crimes or serving as witnesses. Allowing our immigrant neighbors and others to receive anonymous status can encourage more people to participate in the judicial system and keep all of our communities safer.” 

Many immigrants experience hate crimes or are victims of labor violations, such as labor trafficking, sexual violence, or harassment. Yet, they are unwilling to take part in a suit or court proceeding for fear of being deported. This dynamic presents a particular challenge for minors with undocumented parents, who represent 12 percent of children grades K-12 in California. Minors are required to petition the court to obtain approval for guardian ad litem appointments before a summons in a case can be issued. Protecting the identity of the parents of these children is necessary to ensure these young people have access to justice. 

This measure also seeks to provide protections for all those who bring suit in the judicial system who are involved in sensitive or controversial cases. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or discrimination would benefit from the proactive anonymous status that AB 2185 will allow for. Currently, plaintiffs can petition to use a pseudonym only after they have begun proceedings and have already been identified. 

AB 2185 lays out a number of criteria that the court would consider when determining if anonymous status is necessary, including whether identification could create the risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm or whether the party legitimately fears being removed from the country if identified. 

Other states have formalized processes for allowing plaintiffs to use pseudonyms, but California currently has no such process. The bill allows parties to a case to challenge the anonymous status within 60 days of being served. Should the court order that an anonymous litigant be identified, the anonymous litigant could dismiss their claims without prejudice. 

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is sponsoring AB 2185. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a committee hearing is expected in June.

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