Privacy Law

Fired John Doe prosecutor can remain anonymous in suit against Justice Department, judge rules

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A federal prosecutor who claims he was wrongly fired because of an anxiety disorder can keep his name a secret in his lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said the John Doe plaintiff could have trouble doing his job if his identity is revealed and he wins reinstatement as an assistant U.S. Attorney, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. She noted that those with mental health issues still face stigma.

John Doe’s complaint says he ran afoul of Justice Department leadership in 2003 when he refused to authorize what he believed to be an illegal search and seizure and circulated a memo that opposed approval of the idea by his superiors. His superiors suggested he see a psychologist who saw no need for treatment, the suit (PDF) says.

But as his superiors persisted in their pressure on him to conform to their political goals, John Doe experienced an “emotional crisis” and took a leave of absence, the suit says. He was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and returned to work. According to the suit, John Doe made additional disclosures about misconduct by his superiors, including alleged political hiring and a mishandled terrorist probe. He requested an accommodation for his anxiety disorder in 2005, and received a partial accommodation.

In 2008, John Doe was told he was being transferred for his health to a unit where he would be reporting to a prosecutor whom he had named in one of his whistleblower memos, according to the suit. John Doe considered the transfer a significant demotion. He opposed the transfer with backing from a psychologist who said the move would worsen John Doe’s anxiety disorder.

The suit alleges Doe’s superiors used this psychological information to revoke his security clearance and then as a pretext to dismiss him in 2009. The suit claims disability discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act.

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