US Gov't Challenges Anonymity In Suit Over COVID-19 Check

By Joshua Rosenberg
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Law360 (June 30, 2020, 3:17 PM EDT) -- A man suing U.S. officials claiming he didn't receive a stimulus check from the IRS because of his marriage to an immigrant should be required to reveal his identity, the government has told an Illinois federal court.

The anonymous man, who claimed that President Donald Trump and others violated his civil rights by withholding his COVID-19 stimulus check because of his marriage to an immigrant without a Social Security number, should be required to identify himself in his putative class action, the government said Monday. 

"Because the United States does not know his identity, it cannot confirm his allegations that he is an eligible individual and an adequate representative of the proposed class," the government said. 

The man, referred to as John Doe in the complaint, claimed that Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin deprived him of his rights of association, due process and equal protection under the law.

The man said that he's married to an immigrant who files tax returns with an individual taxpayer identification number issued by the IRS, and that they file joint tax returns.

Under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act , or CARES Act, U.S. citizens with Social Security numbers are eligible for the $1,200 per adult and $500 per child stimulus benefit. But the man claimed the government deemed him ineligible based on whom he chose to marry and he had not received his check.

However, the government said the man had not satisfied the requirements for remaining anonymous because he failed to identify the "exceptional circumstances" that would permit it. 

Furthermore, similarly situated individuals have identified themselves in other legal proceedings without issue, the government said. 

If John Doe were to reveal his identity, he would potentially face backlash from both the government and society at large, his counsel, Lana B. Nassar of Blaise & Nitschke PC, told Law360 Tuesday. 

"Our client has demonstrated exigent circumstances that satisfy the requirements for proceeding anonymously in such a case, including, but not limited to, the potential for retaliation by the government in initiating deportation proceedings and impeding his spouse's path to lawful citizenship," Nassar said. "Disclosing his identity would subject his family to mental harm, and we would be remiss not to say, potential physical harm."

The court held a hearing regarding the motion Tuesday morning and the judge took it under advisement, Nassar said. 

The government declined to comment. 

John Doe is represented by Lana B. Nassar, Elisabeth A. Gavin, Heather L. Blaise and Thomas J. Nitschke of Blaise & Nitschke PC, and Vivian Khalaf and Omar Abuzir of Khalaf & Abuzir LLC.

The government is represented by Jordan Konig and Christopher J. Williamson of the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division. 

The case is John Doe et al. v. Donald J. Trump et al., case number 1:20-cv-02531 , in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

--Additional reporting by Hannah Albarazi. Editing by Robert Rudinger.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Doe v. Trump et al


Case Number

1:20-cv-02531

Court

Illinois Northern

Nature of Suit

440(Civil Rights: Other)

Judge

Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman

Date Filed

April 24, 2020

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