John Doe

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John Doe as a placeholder name

John Doe , female counterpart : Jane Doe , is an English wildcard name for fictional or unidentified people. John is one of the most common English male names. "Doe" means a doe . The term is mostly used in the United States .


In the entire Anglo-American legal area, John Doe designates a fictitious litigation party or another fictitious participant in the process, as well as the fictitious name of an existing but unidentified litigation party. Other terms are also used for this purpose, e.g. B. Richard Roe , John Stiles , Richard Miles etc. The best known case of the use of the feminine form is probably the abortion judgment Roe v. Wade , in which the applicant Norma McCorvey appeared under the pseudonym Jane Roe .

The term has also found its way into common usage as a term for a fictitious or unidentified person. In this respect it means:

  • in the United States, a person (including a corpse) with an unexplained or unknown or secret identity , for example in files and on forms. In the German language there is no placeholder name with a similar variety of meanings. Depending on the context, some common examples are NN , Erika Mustermann or Max Mustermann .
  • in informal American English, the average person. Synonyms are John Smith , Joe Public , Joe Average or Joe Sixpack ; German-language equivalents are, for example, Otto Normalverbrauch , Max Mustermann or Lieschen Müller in Germany or Hans Meier and Max Muster in Switzerland, where Mr and Mrs Swiss represent the statistical average.

Another field in which it is important to maintain anonymity can be found in the (US) adult industry in the broadest sense. Men in bars, brothels, clubs or on the phone often introduce themselves as John or John Doe, in order to signal an interest in a discreet business.


The term John Doe was used by English courts at the latest from the 17th century to designate fictitious parties in the context of the so-called action of ejectment . There are also other names such as B. Richard Roe ( English Roe : Reh), John Stiles , Richard Miles etc. Why these names were used is not known. But it can be assumed that the frequency of the name John played a role.

With the action of ejectment property rights to land could be enforced in England up to the Common Law Procedure Act 1852 .

Common law originally only allowed an action if it could be assigned to a certain form of action, a writ . The correct form of action for enforcing property rights to property was actually the writ of right , which clarified the question of property rights once and for all. However, the lawsuit brought by writ of right was so complex that a replacement was sought. This was the action of ejectment .

The basis of the action of ejectment was the writ of trespass de ejectione firmae . Originally serving action of ejectment only the protection of tenants ( lessees ) . Its purpose was to evict someone from the property who had no right to property in relation to the tenant.

The action had to be dismissed, of course, if the defendant could prove that he himself was the tenant of the property and that his lessor had a better right to the property than the plaintiff's lessor. So the success of the lawsuit ultimately depended on which lessor was the real owner of the property.

This was used in the 16th and 17th centuries to circumvent the difficulties of the writ of right . Whoever wanted to clarify the ownership structure (A) leased the property to a friend (D). The latter took possession of the property and was evicted by him - either by the person claiming the property for himself (B), or by another friend of A, the casual ejector or ouster , who, as the alleged tenant of B, specifically instructs B to do so became (R).

The alleged tenant of A (D) now raised the action of ejectment against the person who had driven him away. If this was the casual ejector (R), it now informed the B and advised him to join the process in order to defend his supposed property, the message often being ironically signed with " your loving friend ".

1656 is to roll CJ be passed to require B, all the requirements of the application, lease ( lease ) , possession ( entry ) and displacement ( ouster ) , except for the ownership of the A ( title ) to concede before this accession allows the procedure has been. As a result, these requirements became pure fiction. Neither the leases, nor the occupation, nor evictions actually took place. The fictitious plaintiff tenant was referred to as John Doe , the fictitious defendant tenant ( casual ejector ) as Richard Roe .

The lawsuit therefore read “ Doe upon a demise [lease] from A v Roe upon a demise from B ”, or “Doe d. A v. Roe d. B ” (see examples).

From England and Wales the use of fictitious, i.e. actually nonexistent parties after 1852 is not known. In a few cases, the term John Doe has been used to denote an existing but unidentified party (mainly the defendant) ( Barnett v French [1981] 1 WLR 848 (DC) with further references).

The use of the party name John Doe and Richard Roe is still in use in the United States judicial system today.


Film & television

In numerous US crime and hospital series, unidentified suspects or murder or accident victims are referred to as "Jane Doe" or "John Doe". This also corresponds to the usual practice in the police and clinics.

  • The film Here is John Doe (1941) by Frank Capra tells of an invented average person who rebels against social injustice.
  • The US TV series The John Doe Case! from 2002.
  • In the 2001 film Jane Doe (German title Runaway Jane ), Teri Hatcher plays a computer scientist by the name of Jane Doe.
  • The episode Who is John? the television series Starship Enterprise: The Next Century is about an amnesiac alien who goes by the name of John Doe.
  • In the 1999 film Dogma by director Kevin Smith , an unknown homeless person is beaten into a coma . This is referred to by the media as "John Doe Jersey". In the course of the film, his identity is revealed.
  • In the movie Galaxy Quest - Unplanned Through Space , the extraterrestrial Laliara is shown at the end in a fictional opening credits as Jane Doe, because her "real" name matches the film role, but as an extraterrestrial she has no human name.
  • In the series Supernatural , the woman whose comatose body Ruby slips is called Jane Doe.
  • In the series Once Upon a Time - Once Upon a Time ... the nameless coma patient who is actually Prince James "Charming" or David Nolan, played by Josh Dallas , is called John Doe.
  • The film Seven is a 1995 American thriller directed by David Fincher . The killer - played by Kevin Spacey - uses the name John Doe.
  • In the movie Machete , Danny Trejo is brought in injured under the name John Doe.
  • In the film Predestination , the protagonist signs his work as John Doe after he himself no longer knew who he is.
  • In the series Continuum , Ryan Robbins plays from episode 3 × 09 ( Minute of Silence ) a patient who has been in a coma for two months and is also referred to as John Doe.
  • In the series Blindspot , a young woman with memory loss is found on the Timesquare. Since nobody knows where she comes from or what her name is, she is called "Jane Doe".
  • In the series Grey's Anatomy , an unrecognizable patient due to a facial injury is named John Doe.
  • The film The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) is about a young dead woman whose autopsy reveals that the unknown is a witch who was sentenced to death 400 years ago, but whose body does not decompose due to witchcraft or has aged and also takes damage to anyone who has anything to do with the corpse.


  • A song by US rapper Rick Ross from the mixtape Ashes to Ashes is called John Doe .
  • A song by the Austrian metal band Artas from their album Riotology is entitled The Suffering of John Doe .
  • An album by the US hardcore band Converge is called Jane Doe .
  • A song by acoustic pop musician Never Shout Never is also called Jane Doe .
  • A song by the band Testament is called Jon Doe .
  • A song of the debut album Songs in A Minor singer Alicia Keys is titled Jane Doe .
  • A song by the Dutch band Within Temptation is called Jane Doe . This song was released as the B-side of two of the band's singles.
  • A song by Charlotte Gainsbourg on the album IRM is entitled Me and Jane Doe .
  • A song by Nik Kershaw on the album To Be Frank is titled Jane Doe .
  • A song by the band Mr. Big on the Hey Man album is called Jane Doe .
  • A song by the band Blitzkid is titled Jane Doe # 9 .
  • A song by BoB and Priscilla is called John Doe .
  • A song by the Japanese singer Minami Takahashi is titled Jane Doe .
  • A 2015 song by Australian hip-hop singer Drapht is called Dancin 'John Doe .
  • A song by the South Korean girl group Ladies Code on the 2016 album "Mist3ry" is called "Jane Doe".


  • In late 2008, the US Army inadvertently sent letters beginning with "Dear John Doe" to some families of soldiers killed in the Iraq war . The reason given by the Army was a software bug in the company that produced the letters.
  • Stephen King's narrator in the novel 11/22/63 - A Novel (Eng. The attack ) uses the name "John Doe" against a woman from whom he buys information, and thus successfully signals that he will not allow any further questions about his identity .
  • Douglas Coupland uses the name in the novel jPod to portray a fictional man trying to be as normal as possible.
  • The informant who sent data to the Süddeutsche Zeitung as part of the Panama Papers research used the name "John Doe" as a pseudonym.
  • A work of art by Edward Kienholz from 1959 is called John Doe .
  • John Doe is a pseudonym of the actor, author and musician John Nommensen Duchac, bassist of the American punk band X , see John Doe (musician) .
  • John Doe is the brand name of a supplier of protective motorcycle clothing.

See also

  • ACME , English name for fictitious companies


  • AKR Kiralfy: Potter's Historical Introduction to English Law and its Institutions. 4th edition. Sweet & Maxwell, London 1958.
  • Ejectment . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 9 : Edwardes - Evangelical Association . London 1910, p. 137 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Alfred Romain: Dictionary of legal and business language. 4th edition. 1989.
  2. US Army sends Max Mustermann condolences. heise online from January 8, 2009.
  3. ^ Comment by Wolfgang Krach: Panama Papers - What needs to be light . In: . ISSN  0174-4917 ( [accessed on April 4, 2016]).
  4. John Doe. Freeway GmbH, Flörsheim, Germany, accessed on July 1, 2019 .