John Doe

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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). The names Joe Bloggs or Harry Wotsit are used in the U.K instead as well as in Australia and New Zealand.



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] Other unidentified female murder victims are Cali Doe and Princess Doe. 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] "Jane Doe" is also a name of a song by the band, Never Shout Never about a girl who the lead singer does not know the name of, so he refers to her as Jane Doe.


The name "John Doe", often spelled "Doo," along with "Richard Roe" or "Roo" 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 (1312-1377).[4]

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