Publishing child sex abuse victim’s name on the web was not a privacy violation

Doe v. Fankhauser, 2010 WL 4702295 (N.D. Ohio, November 30, 2010)

County clerk immune from law suit over posting court document on government website.

Plaintiff Jane Doe was the victim of physical and sexual abuse when she was a minor. In the criminal case against the perpetrator, Doe’s name was redacted, and she and her family were allegedly assured that her name would not be publicly disclosed. But someone in the county clerk’s website scanned some documents from the criminal case that had Doe’s name in them and posted those electronic documents on the county’s website, making them publicly available.

So Doe sued the county clerk for violation of Doe’s constitutional due process rights and for common law invasion of privacy. The clerk moved to dismiss. The court granted the motion.

The court found that the clerk was protected by judicial immunity. Judges and court personnel who perform judicial and quasi-judicial functions are absolutely immune from suits for damages arising out of the performance of official judicial acts. In this case, the court found that the clerk’s actions in permitting the documents to be scanned and posted required a type of judgment closely related to the judicial process and therefore deserving of immunity.

Interestingly, the court held that the clerk was entitled to immunity from suit regardless of how careless she may have been. There was no loss of immunity merely because a mistake was made and the original document, without redaction, was made available to the public. “Where there is immunity, it applies even in the face of allegations of bad faith, malice, or reckless indifference.”

Makes you feel confident that the government is watching out for your privacy, doesn’t it?


  1. Ouch–I feel for the plaintiff, but unfortunately the court was correct to dismiss the suit. The records in the clerk's office are public records. On paper, there is a certain level of privacy resulting from the practical obscurity and the fact that most people don't bother to go to their clerk's office to just browse around.

    With the Internet, however, the number of people who can spend time browsing around public records grows dramatically.

    It sounds like the person in question didn't make sure the name etc. was redacted, or maybe he/she scanned documents that aren't part of the official public record. Either way, I can only imagine how Ms. Doe felt upon having those horrible experiences put up for public display. With any luck, the only people to see them were Ms. Doe and her family.

  2. I simply don’t get this…I really don’t.

  3. The society is facing problems with such laws. This has to go legal and it’s needed to be sorted at the earlier.
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  4. The society is facing problems with such laws. This has to go legal and it’s needed to be sorted at the earlier.
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  5. I think this is a terrible, unfortunate incident to happen to a victim of such abuse. How humiliating to not only have to live through it as a child, but now be forced to relive it as an adult.

    If I were Plaintiff Doe, I would use this "opportunity" to speak out to others about this type of abuse, go on Oprah, and not hesitate once to mention the perpetrator.

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