John Doe: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male party, whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown. This practice is widely used in the United States and Canada, but is rare in other English-speaking countries (including the United Kingdom itself, from where its use in a legal context originates – see Origin below).

John Doe is sometimes used to refer to a typical male in other contexts as well, in a similar manner as John Q. Public, Joe Public or John Smith. For example, on various forms, the first name listed is often John Doe, along with a fictional address or other fictional information, to provide an example of how to fill out the form. The name is also used frequently in popular culture, for example in the Frank Capra film Meet John Doe. John Doe was also the name of a 2002 American television series.

The female equivalent of John is Jane Doe, whilst a child or baby whose identity is unknown may be referred to as Baby Doe. A notorious murder case in Kansas City, Missouri referred to the baby victim as Precious Doe.[1] Additional persons may be called James Doe, Judy Doe, etc. However, to avoid possible confusion, if two anonymous or unknown parties are cited in a specific case or action, the surnames Doe and Roe may be used simultaneously – for example, "John Doe v. Jane Roe". Other variations are John Stiles and Richard Miles, now rarely used, and Mary Major, which has been used in some American federal cases.[2]

The Doe names are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants. Another set of names often used for anonymous parties, particularly plaintiffs, are Richard Roe for males and Jane Roe for females (as in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision Roe v. Wade).

Bearing the actual name John Doe can cause difficulty, such as being stopped by airport security or suspected of being an incognito celebrity.[3]



The first known use of the name was in 1659, in England — "To prosecute the suit, to witt John Doe And Richard Roe"[2] —, and has been perhaps as early as the reign of England's King Edward III.[4]

Other obsolete fictitious names for a litigious person in English law were John-a-Noakes, or John Noakes/Nokes and John-a-Stiles/John Stiles[5].

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 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 (Respondent) v Meier and another(FC) (Appellant) and others and another (FC)(Appellant) and another (2009)[6].

The term 'John Doe Injunction' (or John Doe Order)[7] is used in the UK to describe an injunction sought against someone whose identity is not known at the time it is issued:
"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. This form of injunction was used for the first time since 1852 in the United Kingdom 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"[8]. Unlike in 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 [2007] HRLR 4[9].

Court cases

See also



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

John Doe


John Doe

  1. A fictitious name used in the legal documents for an unknown or anonymous male person.
  2. Any unknown or anonymous male person.
    1885: i.e. "to Tom, Dick or Harry:" the names like John Doe and Richard Roe are used indefinitely in Arab. — The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Vol. 4 Footnote 5, Richard Burton


See also

Simple English

The name "John Doe" is used as a name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male person, whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. Male corpses or hospital patient whose identities are unknown may also be called "John Doe". The name "Jane Doe" is used for females.

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