Judge: ‘Jane Doe’ must reveal self in Morse lawsuit
Pontiac – An Oakland Circuit judge ruled Wednesday a “Jane Doe” who filed a $17.5 million libel suit against personal injury attorney Michael Morse will have to reveal her legal name for the lawsuit to move forward.
Jane Doe alleges she was with a group of friends on vacation in Miami on Dec. 30, 2016, when Morse got in the back seat of an Uber car with her and unexpectedly put his hands on her breasts.
The Orchard Lake woman – who said she had never met Morse – allegedly resisted and also rejected an invitation to go to Morse’s hotel room, according to the complaint. She said in March 2017 she had to “block” Morse from contacting her on a social media application, the suit alleges.
Morse’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, described the Jane Doe suit and others as part of an effort by Doe’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, to damage Morse’s reputation.
“There is zero reason to use a pseudonym,” Gordon told Judge Rae Lee Chabot. “This case is a sham. There is no ‘there’ there.”
Fieger argued before Chabot that Jane Doe is a graduate student at a “high-tier, well known Michigan university” and that having her name publicized could bring unwanted social stigma and damage her future.
“This isn’t that complex,” Chabot told both attorneys, as she cut off further legal arguments. “... She is not a particularly vulnerable or fragile plaintiff. In my way of thinking, there is no embarrassment in being a victim. No legitimate reason to shield her.
“She’s not a minor and she’s bringing a lawsuit,” said Chabot. “They (Morse and his attorney) are entitled to know who she is.”
Chabot did not act on Gordon’s request for $10,000 in attorney fees for having to check out 16 lawsuits Fieger cited in support of keeping his client’s name secret. “This has been loaded with fake arguments,” Gordon told Chabot.
Later in the day, Fieger said Chabot’s ruling will not affect Jane Doe’s lawsuit or four others his firm has filed against Morse. The fifth suit was entered Wednesday in Wayne Circuit Court on behalf of a bartender who said she faced inappropriate comments and touching by Morse.
Brittany Paz of Taylor said she was working as a bartender at the attorney’s office Christmas party when one of Morse’s employees introduced her to Morse for a possible job because “he only hires good-looking women.” Paz’s suit seeks $25 million in damages.
In legal filings, Gordon said Fieger’s “frivolous” sexual assault and harassment lawsuits are being filed in a “coordinated media strategy” to humiliate Morse, who she described as a competitor to Fieger.
“Five women have come forward and four have signed verified complaints against him – the first of them currently under criminal investigation,” said Fieger.
Morse has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes.