Another Pseudonymous / Sealed Police Officer Lawsuit

It is a case of Doe v. Town of Lisbon (D.N.H.), which stemmed from police officer Doe’s being fired—wrongly so, he claims—and being placed on the “Exculpatory Evidence Schedule” (also known in New Hampshire as the “LaurieThe “List”, in which his records would be revealed by prosecutors to defense lawyers when he testifies. This placement can adversely affect a person’s chances of being a police officer in any other department, at least in New Hampshire. I would expect the same to happen elsewhere.

While I am unable to confirm Doe was wrongfully fired, it is not clear that the law allows pseudonymity to be used in such cases. In general, those suing for wrongful firings should sue under their own name, even if this may increase public attention to what they claim to be false claims. See generally Appendix 7. Pseudonymous Litigation Law draft.) This requirement for open litigation seems especially appropriate when it concerns important government officials, such as officers. The court denied a motion that would have allowed the matter to be sealed.

The Plaintiff is concerned that publicly having his name as plaintiff will undercut any relief obtained in this matter, and will further jeopardize his ability to obtain future employment in the criminal justice and policing field—even if he is fully vindicated in this matter.

When determining whether to seal a case, “the burden of proof rests with the party seeking closure … to demonstrate with specificity that there is some overriding consideration or special circumstance, that is, a sufficiently compelling interest, which outweighs the public’s right of access to those records.” In re Keene Sentinel, 136 N.H. 121, 128 (1992) (citation omitted).

Plaintiffs’ desire to have this lawsuit filed under seal while his Constitutional rights were upheld is an overwhelming interest which outweighs the public’s access right to see this litigation’s docket.

The federal case has not been sealed by the defendants, but it is being pseudonymously litigated. As I did with the Ohio Police Officer Plaintiff case, I might end up filing an intervention to oppose pseudonymity. However, I wanted to note that pseudonymity attempts seem to be occurring in different places (see also this).