A student climbs steps into the center of the University of Wyoming campus on a crisp October day in 2019. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

UPDATE: U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson denied the plaintiffs’ request to proceed anonymously on Thursday afternoon and has asked them to file an amended complaint with their real names. “Plaintiffs do not meet the high pseudonymity bar reserved for exceptional cases,” Johnson wrote in his ruling.  

“The bottom line is this,” Johnson wrote, “Lawsuits are public events, and the public, especially here, has an important interest in access to legal proceedings. Plaintiffs may not levy serious accusations without standing behind them.”

The plaintiffs have until April 20 to file an amended complaint. —Ed.

A University of Wyoming sorority is facing a civil lawsuit for inducting a transgender member. 

Two Cheyenne attorneys filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming last week on behalf of seven unnamed members of Kappa Kappa Gamma at UW. The suit alleges that the sorority broke its bylaws, breached housing contracts and misled members when it admitted the first transgender woman in its history. 

The attorneys also filed a motion asking the court to grant anonymity to their clients. 

“The sensitive facts involved in this case, as well as the strong likelihood that the nature of this lawsuit will result in threats and harassment from third-parties against individual students and their families, merit this Court’s approval,” according to the motion. 

Unidentified plaintiffs are very unusual, several legal experts told WyoFile.

“Anonymous plaintiffs are exceedingly rare. Unknown defendants are commonplace,” said Noah Novogrodsky, a professor at UW College of Law, who teaches civil procedure. The suit’s defendants include Kappa Kappa Gamma’s parent organization, its national president and the transgender member. 

A judge will have final say on the request for anonymity, but the typical transparency of who’s bringing suit is deliberate, according to Melissa Alexander, who also teaches civil procedure at UW. “It facilitates public scrutiny of our judicial system, which is critical for both legitimacy and accountability,” she said. 

“The idea is, because our public funds our court systems, they have a right to know who’s using their courts,” Alexander said. Arbitration, she noted, is a non-taxpayer-funded option for parties interested in resolving disputes privately. 

The plaintiffs are seeking “all remedies available” including removing the transgender member from the sorority, prohibiting “any other man” from joining, plus monetary and punitive damages from the organization. 

Both John Knepper and Cassie Craven, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, declined to comment. In February, Craven was censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court in part for revealing confidential and harmful information about a client.


While rare, anonymous plaintiffs are not unheard of in civil litigation. Most people are probably familiar with Roe v. Wade, Alexander said, referring to the recently overturned landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court case that established a woman’s right to abortion. The plaintiff used “Jane Roe” as a pseudonym because the case was highly personal and sensitive in nature. 

Attorneys for the Kappa Kappa Gamma plaintiffs are making a similar argument for anonymity, citing “intense discussion of the behavior of individuals within their intimate living space.” Within the complaint, the plaintiffs accuse the transgender defendant of watching other women, asking them personal questions and making some members feel uncomfortable. The plaintiff’s attorneys also requested anonymity for the transgender defendant — whom they refer to as “Terry Smith,” a pseudonym (and with “he/him” pronouns) — “since this individual has similar privacy and safety interests.” 

The motion acknowledges the “social media maelstrom that surrounds these issues generally and the fact that this matter has already attracted significant press coverage.” It does not mention that news outlets, tabloids and political advocacy organizations have published the defendant’s name and photo numerous times in the past six months. 

Far-reaching press coverage began last fall after the Branding Iron — UW’s student newspaper — reported on the historic Greek-life induction of a transgender student, who was quoted in the story. Then in December, national and international press swarmed once again when Todd Schmidt, a Laramie resident, protested the arrangement with a banner in the UW Student Union. Several students gathered together to physically block the sign, which used the student’s name and declared that she was a man, from view. It was removed that same day. Schmidt also lost the right to table in the Union for the next year, which got the attention of lawmakers who denounced UW’s decision in a letter.

Days after the incident, police issued a trespass warning to Schmidt after he appeared outside Kappa Kappa Gamma, according to reporting by the Casper Star-Tribune

A group of University of Wyoming students participate in a silent protest on Dec. 2, 2022 in response to recent anti-LGBTQ incidents. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Exceptional circumstances 

“It is very unusual for plaintiffs in civil cases to be allowed to proceed anonymously, and it’s a really high bar,” said Jennifer Wieland, a Kansas-based attorney who has written about anonymous civil suits in the 10th Circuit, which includes Wyoming and Kansas. 

The rules that govern civil proceedings in U.S. district courts require all parties be named. Unlike other circuits, the 10th Circuit has not enumerated the factors a court must consider when making an exception to that rule by granting anonymity. However, Wieland points to 10th Circuit precedent that states “there may be exceptional circumstances warranting some form of anonymity in judicial proceedings.” (While the judge in that case outlined the necessary conditions, the court ultimately ruled that the plaintiff did not meet them.)

Those exceptional circumstances mainly include two conditions, Wieland said: matters of highly sensitive and personal nature, and a real danger of physical harm. To Wieland’s knowledge, no civil case has cleared the bar in the 10th Circuit, unlike other circuits. 

Few exceptions are made because the judicial system relies on the existence of “a case or controversy,” Wieland said. “It’s important for the actual people who have the controversy to put themselves out there when a court is deciding it. That’s the reason why courts exist.”  

The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue their case meets the conditions for anonymity and that “pseudonyms will protect parties from significant psychological distress that has already accompanied prior disclosures in this matter.” The motion points to the example of Schmidt showing up at the Kappa Kappa Gamma house as a “very real threat.” 

The attorneys did not file an accompanying affidavit — a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation for use as evidence in court — since that would require a signature and “would defeat the very reason for Plaintiffs’ request.”

“They claim a risk of retaliatory harm, but that’s not supported by any evidence,” Alexander said. “They didn’t file an affidavit and what they referenced ironically was potential harm really to the transgender defendant.”

The attorneys point to the “intense public concern” in the case, but say “the actual names of the individuals involved is likely the least relevant fact before this Court,” the motion states. 

“It’s almost like they’re taking the fact that this is a case of significant public interest, which it is, and they’re trying to use that to argue for anonymity,” Alexander said. “But, arguably, the significant public interest argues for just the opposite.”

The plaintiffs would be willing to disclose their identities and sensitive information under a protective order, the motion states. 

A judge had not ruled on the motion by press time. 

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. John. Every one has worked with or around gay men women for decades. That is nothing new. Wasn’t any issues in work force. Transgenders are very different in work force. Seems they very disruptive. I have worked with 3. All women trying to be men. All 3 cases they were very disruptive in work settings. First one was 30 years ago actually. Last one was in 2016 in woodworking shop in Loveland Colo. All felt they were very “special”. In six months time she caused a 76% turnover in work force. Just wasn’t worth the daily hassles she created. These folks are out disrupt society. Todays business world can’t take on their expense of hiring them. Let’s see how Bud Lite/Jack Daniel’s really feels in 6 months about their brand.

  2. Plaintiffs: “We want to hide our identities while we challenge someone else’s identity.” Let that sink in.

  3. It’s a wonder the CDC doesn’t do more to advocate against the Transgender lifestyle. I mean, we all go after cigarette smokers for a harmful lifestyle. Yet the statistics do not mislead: TG’s lifespan is considerably less than their cisgender friends. There is a greater suicide risk, greater chance of being addicted to drugs, and a greater chance of life threatening sexual diseases. TG’s also experience greater chance of mental health disorders. Nor can this be attributed to some phantom persecution by religious self righteous nut cases that like to run around pinning the proverbial black dot on the citizenry. Even the most liberal live and let live countries in the world report the exact same statistics.

  4. This is a case where common sense should prevail. Unfortunately, there seems to be less and less of that these days. The clear fact is that the defendant is male ( no matter what gender the person chooses to identify with). It must be established that even though a person might choose to alter their identity the rest of us are under no obligation or demand by use of force to acknowledge it as fact. The trouble here has far reaching implications for our nation as a whole. Essentially, one side is saying something is a fact, that being that the defendant is female and should be acknowledged as such. The other side is denying that this is true and is citing clear evidence which involves the behavior and appearance of the defendant. Again, mere facts should prevail. The court should require the defendant to present his birth certificate. It will of course show that the defendant is male despite any claims that are contrary to that simple fact. Once it is documented by the court there will be no other recourse for the defendant. Coming back to why it is important for our nation as a whole to recognize facts as opposed to the desires of any individual can be summarized rather easily. If, as a nation we begin to drift toward allowing the wishes and desires of a person to supersede actual truth our nation is endangered. A myriad of possibilities that are absurd now become considered acceptable. The root of this is offensive in nature because it insists by the use of force that someone like myself must believe and accept something as being true when I know it isn’t. If the defendant and his claim to the right to be a member of a sorority is upheld then it could only follow that any person could claim anything that is obviously false and everyone else would be FORCED to acknowledge it. This is HIGHLY DANGEROUS.

  5. Hold the Judge accountable for any harassment, retaliation or damages incurred to the plaintiffs or their families as a result of his decision making and I bet that will change his mind pretty damn quick.

  6. “A woman shall not wear men’s clothing, nor shall a man put on woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
    Deuteronomy 22:5

  7. Seems like this is an internal issue for Kappa Kappa Gamma. Why is the state being asked to arbitrate membership criteria for KKG? Seems like the plaintiffs should just leave the organization if they disagree with admitting a transgender student.

  8. It is simple! Perhaps a biological time bomb warning flag for the Human Species as Paul & Anne Ehrlich signaled among many, many others those so, so, many years ago. Live life while you can! Instantaneous Transformation is Upon Us. Embrace the Hockey Stick! Who am I to stand in the way of an mass extinction? Smart Ape, I beg to differ! Thank you for your reporting.. Try and be nice… Words not Rounds!

  9. How can we determine the plaintiff’s standing if they are not named. No case exists unless the plaintiffs suffered harm. Anonymous people are NEVER harmed in anti-human identity attacks. Keep them anonymous and dismiss the case immediately. Note all girls look at each other and ask questions. The reason these people were “uncomfortable” is they have serious problems in their own heads.

    1. Really? Ask a girl that has been raped that. Really you are saying it is the same, really?

  10. So, there is the word sex, there is the word gender. They are not and never will be the same. As indicated by other posts ignorance and religious fervor are insensitive and are a go nowhere point of view. If you can’t understand then it is time to work at educating yourself and stop throwing rocks at people in glass houses. It is shameful how trans individuals are bullied, lied about, harmed and pushed into a box of lies.

    1. They need to stay in their damn boxes and quit pushing their obscene beliefs in everyone’s faces especially minors.

    2. Sheryl. Keepin mind this Transgender movement is degrading humiliation of womanhood as well. That is huge part of the lesbian/Transgender movement. Out to DESTROY ALL GAINS women have gained over last 30 years. Yet you women go along with it.

  11. If these students are going to drag the defendant’s name through the courts then have the decency and integrity to sign your names. Go out and educate yourselves on transgender people and develop compassion and understanding instead of castigating this person.

  12. Men are men. Women are women. You cannot change your DNA. One can dress as one wants but you can’t truly change your sex. Now question is. If these Transgenders are so “Happy and content” in their lifestyle. Why the shootings? Why the Mental Health issues?

    1. Transgenders are not “happy and content,” because they are being persecuted by religious fundamentalists who want to force others to live their way. The Nashville shooter had been indoctrinated by Christian principles, then she was rejected by the same people who told her that God loves everyone.

      The problem with this issue is that most Republicans haven’t been educated on science and biology beyond high school, so they aren’t able to grasp the concept that gender is a spectrum, from girly girls to tom boys to sensitive men to cave men. The same goes with the history of child labor, poverty and abortion rights. These issues were settled for a reason, but we have to repeat history, because there are so many uneducated people who don’t know our nation’s true history.

      Undeveloped minds need simple explanations, because they are unable to understand difficult concepts. Centuries ago, science was explained using a man on a cloud. Centuries before that, science was explained using many gods that corresponded with different phenomena, because there was no concrete evidence to illustrate many of life’s mysteries. When you’re uneducated and don’t know how today’s world works, you are easy to manipulate with childish interpretations of complicated issues.

      Ignorance is dragging us backwards.

      1. You are right, most of us only know that biology dictates gender, unborn babies turn out to be people, and our nation and laws were founded on religious principles. We are so ignorant, that we can’t accept how “today’s world works “ – officially the march toward the Marxist utopia. Indeed, history does repeat itself, sadly. I’m sorry you have to deal with all of us who are so beneath your level of understanding and intelligence. We will just go ahead and happily raise our families in our faith if we choose , and would gladly let anyone else live as they choose. The only thing is, we are being told to change OUR values of 2000+ years, to conform to this new cultural thing that comes in with a leftist government/media. Well anyway, Happy Easter!

      2. John. No one is “persecuting” Transgenders. The anger/violence I see is them creating conflict. It rare but most is brought on to them selfs. They are less then 1.5% of a population of 330 million in USA. Very small percentage. I ask you this. If you are a business that deals with John Q. Public. Will you put them out as face of your bizzness? Be very honest now. No theory’s. No speculation. Simple yes no. I would put XXX out front of my small business for public to deal with daily. This sadly a mental illness these people suffer from. Always has been always will be. Men are men women are women. Only 2 sexes. Can’t change DNA. Sadder still is that John Q. Public is being forced to deal with the mental illness as there no help for these people. Their issues are compounded with all the hormone medications they take as well

      3. I’m not even religious but you offend me. I am educated and was an educator and you offend me. Just because someone doesn’t see things the way you believe it to be you berate them. If they are religious you offend them. If they differ politically you mock them. What is your data to back up that most Republicans are uneducated. Most that I know have gone to college and are professionals. I grew up in Sweetwater County. Most of the people including my family and friends were Democrats. None of those people were college educated. I earned a 4 year scholarship through the local Democrat Women’s Association. Both of my parents were strong Democrats but they were not college educated but they had challenges in their lives that made them strong and wise people. They were much wiser and mature than I am even with a college education. Maybe you don’t think you are rude calling people you don’t know ‘under developed minds’ because you lump us all together. I would question who has the ‘under developed mind’ and is ‘uneducated’. I am tired of people who ‘think’ they are smarter than others being down right rude and thinking they are justified because they are quote ‘smarter’. How do you ‘know’ you are smarter? Oh you went to college and got a degree. That makes you better than someone with life experience. Believe me there are many times that the person with ‘Life Experience’ wins. Just because we are small town Wyoming people who are you to judge us and ‘Label’ us in such a disrespectful way, whether we are religious or not religious, whether we are Democrat or Republican or neither. Are your thoughts and words any less biased.Yet you wonder why there is so much anger everywhere.

        1. Who said that educated means you graduated from college? Education encompasses life experience, personal research, reading books and even conversations with others. The uneducated people of Wyoming have not explored the world or other cultures. They are stuck in a time warp afraid of anything that is different.

          Most of the country is figuring out religion, including here in Wyoming. The hate directed at transgenders and gays is usually from people who call themselves “Christians.” The people who want to ban a woman’s right to choose an abortion are also usually “Christians.”

          I’m sorry if pointing out the truth offends anyone. It’s really not meant to insult or hurt anyone’s feelings, but to get them to think outside of their bubble for once. Maybe they’ll think twice about insulting others who are different. Those people have a right to live in society, as much as people who don’t want to educate themselves on how the world works.

          1. Best female swimmer is a male. Female cyclist, female runner, female jeopardy player-a male. Male wins woman of the year. Male wins beauty pageant. Male does Tampax commercial. Male models sports bras for Nike. Male wants in a sorority. I don’t even need a doctorate to see the problem here. It’s time for women to take back their identity, their sports and scholarships. I was taught that I was born with certain things and I would be expected to do my very best with those things and not expect others to change if I did not like what I was born with . In other words there are no free lunches and suck it up buttercup. As a female I think I should be paid to do a prostate exam commercial for men. You all should agree because I said so🤷🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️.

      4. John: Your comments are very offensive and do not meet the standards which WYOFILE represents – they contribute nothing to meaningful discussion of this issue. Please refrain from further comment.

    2. Colorado is considered one of the most welcoming states for transgendered people in the country. In Denver, at least, they are employed by businesses and welcomed by most people. You, like most cisgendered people, can’t understand the whole idea, which isn’t that they are “dressing” like the other gender, so best not to try or issue ignorant statements. I am glad students that protested the lawsuit, but for the student’s own safety in the home of the murder of Matthew Shepard–a hideous crime that will besmirch the Cowboy State forever in the eyes of the nation– I think they might be wise to resign from the sorority.

      1. Agreed, the Matthew Shepard incident was terrible, and no church would condone such a thing. But what about the right of association? Why don’t folks that suffer from these biases because of the tendency they have form their own sororities/fraternities where they can have a college experience with people that share their views? To force an established association to adopt views contrary to their own seems to go against those women’s right of association. That is what people of faith are feeling too- their faith legitimately teaches one thing and the culture seeks to force contrary beliefs on them. Colorado bakers are forced to provide cakes for ceremonies contrary to their beliefs. Young girls are forced to share bathrooms with biological males. How is this a just solution to pain felt by a few, to sacrifice the rights of many?

    3. Exactly correct, they are mentally screwed up from the very beginning and as far as non-binary goes medical professionals treat male and female patients not aliens of undefined nature.