Thursday, January 31, 2002
High Court Won’t Require Use of Appellant’s True Name in Caption
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The case of Unnamed Physician v. Board of Trustees of Saint Agnes Medical Center will remain published at 93 Cal.App.4th 607 with the plaintiff continuing to be “unnamed,” under an action taken by the California Supreme Court.
The high court on Tuesday spurned a request by the Metropolitan News Company (which publishes the Metropolitan News-Enterprise and six other newspapers) to restore the original caption of the case—Nugent v. Saint Agnes Medical Center. The minute order reads:
“The request for public identification of the appellant is denied. Baxter, J., was recused and did not participate.”
Justice Marvin Baxter has recused himself of late in cases in which Fifth District Court of Appeal Presiding Justice James Ardaiz, his brother-in-law, participated. Ardaiz was the author of the Nov. 1 opinion in Unnamed Physician.
The opinion affirmed the denial of a writ petition brought on March 15, 2001, by Dr. James Nugent to challenge a hospital’s administrative procedures. Disciplinary proceedings against him were impending.
The affirmance was based on mootness—the hospital had altered its procedures while the matter was being litigated—and Nugent was awarded costs.
“[T]he prevailing party in this action is actually the losing party on appeal,” Ardaiz observed.
Nugent litigated in the trial court in his own name, as he did in the Court of Appeal. However, when the opinion was filed, the appellant’s name was removed from the caption, with Ardaiz explaining in a footnote:
“Because of the sensitive nature of the allegations made by the hospital and the pendency of the internal peer review process, we deem it necessary to protect the physician’s professional reputation at this juncture and will refer to him in this opinion as an unnamed physician, or appellant.”
The hospital petitioned the Supreme Court for review, and also requested depublication of the opinion. The court on Tuesday denied those bids.
MNC requested the high court to change the caption if it decided to accept the case and, if not, to grant review and retransfer the case to the Fifth District with instructions to refile the opinion, with the appellant identified by his true name.
It argued in a letter to the court:
“Dr. Nugent is not entitled to a ‘private appeal.’ Having invoked the resources of the public courts, he has no right to anonymity….”
While denying MNC’s request to unveil the appellant’s identity, the Supreme Court itself revealed it on Tuesday. Its register of actions went online that day, and listed on the main page for Unnamed Physician is a “cross referenced” case, Nugent v. Saint Agnes Medical Center.
While the case was pending in the trial court, Nugent sought review on April 5, 2001, of the Court of Appeal’s denial of a writ petition. Review was denied.
The Supreme Court has chosen not to act on MNC’s request that it grant review on its own motion in Roe v. The State of California, 94 Cal.App.4th 64, and retransfer the case to the First District Court of Appeal with instructions to use the appellant’s true name, Ronald Kaminski. The court’s jurisdiction expired yesterday.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company