John Doe

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Four headstones marking the single grave of four unknown people in the Pima County Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona. They are called "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" followed by a number sign (#) and a number. In the same cemetery, the murdered Deanna Criswell was called "Jane Doe 19" for 27 years until she was genetically identified in 2015 by her relatives with help from the FBI and The Doe Network.

John Doe (male) and Jane Doe (female) are multiple-use placeholder names that are used in the United States and the United Kingdom when the true name of a person is unknown or is being intentionally concealed. In the context of law enforcement in the United States, such names are often used to refer to a corpse whose identity is unknown or cannot be confirmed. These names are also often used to refer to a hypothetical "everyman" in other contexts, like John Q. Public or "Joe Public". There are many variants to the above names, including John (or Richard)/Jane Roe, John/Jane Smith, John/Jane Bloggs, and Johnie/Janie Doe or just Baby Doe for children.

A. N. Other is also a placeholder name, mainly used in the United Kingdom, which is gender neutral.

In criminal investigation

In other English-speaking countries, unique placeholder names, numbers or codenames have become more often used in the context of police investigations. This has included the United Kingdom, where usage of "John Doe" originated during the Middle Ages. However, the legal term John Doe injunction or John Doe order has survived in English law and other legal systems influenced by it. Other names, such as "Joe Bloggs" or "John Smith", have sometimes been informally used as placeholders for an every-man in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand; however such names are seldom used in legal or police circles in the same sense as John Doe.

Well-known legal cases named after placeholders include:


Under the legal terminology of Ancient Rome, the names "Numerius Negidius" and "Aulus Agerius" were used in relation to hypothetical defendants and plaintiffs.

The names "John Doe" (or "John Do") and "Richard Roe" (along with "John Roe") were regularly invoked in English legal instruments to satisfy technical requirements governing standing and jurisdiction, beginning perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III (1327–1377). Though the rationale behind the choices of Doe and Roe is unknown, there are many suggested folk etymologies. Other fictitious names for a person involved in litigation in medieval English law were "John Noakes" (or "Nokes") and "John-a-Stiles" (or "John Stiles"). The Oxford English Dictionary states that John Doe is "the name given to the fictitious lessee of the plaintiff, in the (now obsolete in the UK) mixed action of ejectment, the fictitious defendant being called Richard Roe".

This usage is mocked in the 1834 English song "John Doe and Richard Roe":

Two giants live in Britain's land,
John Doe and Richard Roe,
Who always travel hand in hand,
John Doe and Richard Roe.
Their fee-faw-fum's an ancient plan
To smell the purse of an Englishman,
And, 'ecod, they'll suck it all they can,
John Doe and Richard Roe ...

This particular use became obsolete in the UK in 1852:

As is well known, the device of involving real people as notional lessees and ejectors was used to enable freeholders to sue the real ejectors. These were then replaced by the fictional characters John Doe and Richard Roe. Eventually the medieval remedies were (mostly) abolished by the Real Property Limitation Act of 1833; the fictional characters of John Doe and Richard Roe by the Common Law Procedure Act 1852; and the forms of action themselves by the Judicature Acts 1873–75."
Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs v Meier and others (2009).

In the UK, usage of "John Doe" survives mainly in the form of John Doe injunction or John Doe order (see above).

8.02 If an unknown person has possession of the confidential personal information and is threatening to disclose it, a 'John Doe' injunction may be sought against that person. The first time this form of injunction was used since 1852 in the United Kingdom was in 2005 when lawyers acting for JK Rowling and her publishers obtained an interim order against an unidentified person who had offered to sell chapters of a stolen copy of an unpublished Harry Potter novel to the media.

Unlike the United States, the name "John Doe" does not actually appear in the formal name of the case, for example: X & Y v Persons Unknown HRLR 4.

Well-known cases of unidentified decedents include "Caledonia Jane Doe" (1979), "Princess Doe" (1982) and "Walker County Jane Doe" (1980), all of whom have been identified. The baby victim in a 2001 murder case in Kansas City, Missouri, was referred to as Precious Doe.

In 2009, the New York Times reported the difficulties and unwanted attention experienced by a man actually named John Doe, who had often been suspected of using a pseudonym. He had been questioned repeatedly by airport security staff. Another man named John Doe was often suspected of being an incognito celebrity.

Other variants

In cases where a large number of unidentified individuals are mentioned, numbers may be appended, such as "Doe #2" or "Doe II". Operation Delego (2009), which targeted an international child sexual abuse ring, cited 21 numbered "John Does", as well as other people known by the surnames "Doe", "Roe", "Hoe" and "Poe".

"John Stiles", "Richard Miles" have been used for the third and fourth participants in an action. "Mary Major" has been used in some federal cases in the US. "James Doe" and "Judy Doe" are among other common variants.

Less often, other surnames ending in -oe have been used when more than two unknown or unidentified persons are named in U.S. court proceedings, e.g.,

In Massachusetts, "Mary Moe" is used to refer to pregnant women under the age of 18 petitioning the Superior Court for a judicial bypass exception to the parental consent requirement for abortion. "Mary Moe" is also used to refer to such cases generally, i.e. "Mary Moe cases". Sometimes "Mary Doe" may be used for the individuals.

Parallels in other countries include:

In 1997, New York City police discovered a decapitated body and were not able to find the killer. The body was named Peaches (murder victim) and also Jane Doe 3.

Famous court cases

The use and selection of pseudonyms is not standardized in U.S. courts. The practice was rare prior to 1969, and is sometimes objected to on legal grounds.

Currently there are no court rules about pseudonym use. The rules of civil procedure ... are silent on the matter ... Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) reads, '... In the complaint, the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties ...' The rule contains no guidance as to what parties should do to keep their names confidential.

Prior to ... 1969, only one Supreme Court case, three court of appeals' decisions, and one district court decision in the previous quarter-century featured an anonymous individual as the sole or lead plaintiff. Between 1969 and 22 January 1973, the date when the Supreme Court decided Roe and Doe, there were twenty-one district court and two court of appeals decisions featuring anonymous plaintiffs.

See also


  1. ^ "Twitched Indictment" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  2. ^ "The People of the State of California v. John Doe" (PDF). Judicial Council of California. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b Ireland, Courts Service of. "McKeogh -v- John Doe 1 & ors : Judgments & Determinations : Courts Service of Ireland". Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Obtaining a John Doe order". PressGazette. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Deed Poll Office (D·P·O)". Deed Poll Office. Archived from the original on 22 March 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Uber Technologies, Inc. v. Doe I". Justia Dockets & Filings. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  7. ^ Onomastics, Names: A. Journal of (1 December 1972). "Note". Names. 20 (4): 297–300. doi:10.1179/nam.1972.20.4.297. ISSN 1756-2279. Archived from the original on 31 July 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  8. ^ What's in a Name. Merriam-Webster. 1996. ISBN 978-0-87779-613-8.
  9. ^ a b "Why Are Unidentified People Called John or Jane Doe?". 15 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 July 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  10. ^ "World Wide Words – John DoeZ". Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  11. ^ The Universal Songster: Or, Museum of Mirth: Forming the Most Complete, Extensive, and Valuable Collection of Ancient and Modern Songs in the English Language, with a Copious and Classified Index, Volume 1. London: Jones and Company. 1827. p. 378. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Supreme Court Decided Cases (pdf)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  13. ^ "The Law of Professional-Client Confidentiality: Regulating the Disclosure of Confidential Personal Information, Update". Archived from the original on 7 July 2003.
  14. ^ "Uncorrected Evidence 75". 18 February 2009. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  15. ^ Goldblatt, Jeff (8 August 2002). "Slain Mystery Girl Brings Community Together". FOX News Network. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
  16. ^ Alison Leigh Cowan (29 July 2009). "Meet John Doe. No, really!". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 October 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2009.
  17. ^ Quinion M (15 March 2003). "John Doe". World Wide Words. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  18. ^ "Poe v. Snyder". Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  19. ^ "Friedman v. Ferguson". Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  20. ^ Note that the plaintiff-appellant Friedman represented himself, so his use of fictitious names may not reflect legal custom.
  21. ^ "Superior Court Standing Order 5-81: Uniform Procedures Regarding Petitions for Abortion Authorization under G.L. c. 112, § 12". Massachusetts Superior Court. 1 October 1988. Archived from the original on 19 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  22. ^ Balaji, R (29 March 2012). "'Kolaveri' against piracy". The Hindu Business Line. Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  23. ^ Elhor, Aziz (17 February 2012). "حقائق صادمة عن أطفال يحملون اسم «X بن X»" . al-Massae. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  24. ^ "Médecine légale: X Ben X, l'énigme du cadavre anonyme". L'Economiste (in French). 23 September 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  25. ^ "حملة أمنية تحصي المتشردين و المتسولين لتحديد هوياتهم !" . Rue20 (in Arabic). 8 April 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2023.
  26. ^ "Who is JANE DOE?". Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  27. ^ See, for example, Dendrite International, Inc. v. Doe, "775 A.2d 756". Archived from the original on 8 September 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2009. (N.J. App. Div. 2001); Krinsky v. Doe 6, "159 Cal. App. 4th 1154 (pdf)" (PDF). 14 January 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. (2008).
  28. ^ Pahwa, Nikhil (21 July 2011). "Update: Files Sharing Sites Blocked in India Because Reliance BIG Pictures Got A Court Order". MediaNama. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
  29. ^ "'John Doe Order' for BODYGUARD to curb its piracy". 29 August 2011. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  30. ^ Balla, Donald P. "John Doe Is Alive and Well: Designing Pseudonym Use in American Courts" (PDF). Arkansas Law Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  31. ^ Milani, Adam A. "Doe v. roe: An argument for defendant anonymity when a pseudonymous plaintiff alleges a stigmatizing intentional tort". Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  32. ^ "Glamour Women of the Year: Stanford Sexual Assault Case Survivor Emily Doe Speaks Out". Glamour. November 2016. Archived from the original on 2 November 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  33. ^ de León, Concepción (4 September 2019). "You Know Emily Doe's Story. Now Learn Her Name". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 September 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  34. ^ Hope, Bradley (12 March 2015). "Was 'John Doe' Manipulating Treasury Futures? New Lawsuit Says Yes". Wall Street Journal.
  35. ^ Carroll, Rory (3 November 2016). "Woman accusing Trump of raping her at 13 cancels her plan to go public". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 16 October 2017.

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