Monday, April 25, 2011

Doe v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - April 20, 2011)

I agree.  When you allow someone to sue as a Doe in order to preserve her identity -- here, for darn good reasons, since she's suing someone for damages for raping her -- she doesn't have to verify her discovery responses by signing her actual name.  She can sign as "Shawna Doe".  That's just fine.  (And I also agree with the caveat by the Court of Appeal that if she's sanctioned, and refuses to pay the sanctions, there may be trouble with enforcing the sanction unless we modify the order to refer to her real name, but that we can cross that bridge if and when we come to it.)

The Court of Appeal also adds an interesting footnote, which reads:  "In Elizabeth Luster's briefs, she repeatedly refers to Doe as an 'alleged rape victim.' The fact that Andrew Luster raped Doe has been established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. While we can understand a mother's continued desire to believe in her son's innocence, referring to Doe as an 'alleged' rape victim is offensive both to Doe herself, and the court system which convicted Andrew Luster."

Strong stuff.  Largely appropriate, in my view.  Though remember that it's not the mother who's doing the briefing and using that language.  It's her attorney.  So some of the comment might be directed that way as well.

But there's also an interesting factual backdrop to that comment.  This was a high-profile rape, and the perpetrator was Andrew Luster, the great-grandson of cosmetics founder Max Factor and an heir to the Max Factor fortune.  He raped multiple women by drugging them with GHB, including Shawna Doe.  Not only that, but he videotaped himself doing it.  So pretty shocking, and clearly an item of television interest.

But that's not all.  Luster also skipped town (and the country) during his trial.  Which in part may explain the use of the "alleged" terminology, because while Luster was indeed convicted, that transpired in absentia, and his appeals were dismissed based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine.

But there's more!  Luster was eventually caught in Mexico and brought back to serve his sentence (his 124-year sentence, I might add).  By who, you ask?  Not by Mexican authorities.  But rather by bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman.  Yeah, that's the one -- the funny looking guy who's got his own television show on A&E.  This is the famous grab that got him that show.  Oh, yeah.  And arrested and prosecuted by Mexico for illegally kidnapping Luster in that nation.  (Charges that were ultimately dropped. Though not after Dog and his crew were held without bail in Mexico for a nontrivial period of time and had to endure various U.S. extradition proceedings.)

So a Doe with a story, for sure.