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Southern Methodist University Association of Women Law Students v. Wynne and Jaffe

Citation. 599 F.2d 707, 1979 U.S. App. 20 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 457; 20 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P30,136
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Brief Fact Summary.

Southern Methodist University Association of Women Law Students (Association) and four female Lawyers A, B, C and D (Plaintiffs), who wished to remain anonymous, refused to disclose the identities of the four female attorneys that were allegedly discriminated against by the defendant law firms, Wynne and Jaffe (Defendants) when applying for summer law clerk and associate positions.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Only under special circumstances, where the issues involved are the subject of sensitive and a highly personal nature, will a court allow plaintiffs to use fictitious names.


Plaintiffs brought a sex discrimination suit alleging that two defendant Dallas law firms discriminated against women in hiring summer law clerks and associates. Plaintiffs appeal from pretrial orders of the district court that required the Association to reveal the true identities of the four female lawyers.


Whether special circumstances exist to allow plaintiffs to use fictitious names?


No. Judgment of the District Court is affirmed. Under Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Title VII, individuals are required to state the names of all the parties to be included in the pleadings. However, in certain circumstances, courts have allowed plaintiffs to use fictitious names. Some of these special circumstances, which warrant plaintiffs to use fictitious names are issues involving birth control, abortion, homosexuality or the welfare rights of illegitimate children. All of these cases divulge intimate personal information. In the instant case, the four attorneys for the Plaintiffs did not reveal any intimate personal information or express a desire to participate in proscribed activities. Basic fairness states that individual party plaintiffs must bring suit against the defendants under their real names.


Rule 17(a) states that, “every action shall be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.” One of the purposes of this rule is to protect the interests of defendants.

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