In my review for my recent Civil Procedure final exam, I noticed this sentence in Title 28 of the United States Code Chapter 89 Section 1441, “For purposes of removal under this chapter, the citizenship of defendants sued under fictitious names shall be disregarded.”

For those of you who didn’t sit through a full semester of jurisdiction and joinder, pleadings and procedures, section 1441 relates to the removal process for taking lawsuits out of state court and trying them in federal court.

The general rule is that if the plaintiff could have brought the case in federal court to begin with. This would be in situations when there is a federal question (some case that interprets the constitution or certain specific federal statutes) or there are persons from different states or countries disputing something.

As usual, I thought about Second Life(R). What about a person who sues an avatar, who, for example, stole their copybotted their entire store’s worth of in-world creations, worth hundreds of dollars monthly to that person? They have to, at least at the beginning, sue the avatar because they won’t know the real name of the person behind the avatar. I wondered if this meant that defendants sued in this way would be stuck in state court even if they were, say, from Azerbaijan,  and emailed my professor to ask him about it.

Thankfully, my wonderful, intelligent, funny, interesting professor (can you see that I still haven’t got my grades back?) replied that this provision relates to defendants whose names are genericized for their privacy. I assume that this relates most often to times where an unknown defendant or group of defendants are sued (e.g. the owners of gambling websites – we’ll hear more about them later) and then choose not to reveal their true identity during  court proceedings. This would allow the copybotter from Azerbaijan to choose whether or not  to reveal their identity. He would be able to decide whether it was more important to hide his identity (so that he doesn’t get banned from second life) or have the suit in state court (so that he doesn’t face as much bias against him).

**** AGAIN… If you have anything tha tyou would rather see me write about than just the random things that come off the top of my head, please comment and let me know.  Since starting this blog, I have learned that it is uncommon for a legal blogger to work alone. It is much more demanding to come up with relevant legal commentary (especially when one is in the beginning stages of learning about the law) than to come up with personal posts. The blog will likely not become a daily or weekly blog anytime soon, but I will stick with it and try to keep my (1 or 2) readers coming back.  Let me know what interests you. ****

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