Pseudonymous Lawsuit by Police Officer Over His Placement on “Exculpatory Evidence List”

Many police officers, or former police officers, sue for their name to be removed from EES. The state trial courts permit such lawsuits to go ahead under seal. I doubt it’s possible, but this is a different matter. The plaintiff’s police officer filed both federal and state constitutional claims. Because of this, the Town of Lisbon remanded the case to the federal court. It is now proceeding pseudonymously, instead of being sealed. This is Doe’s state court motion for seal. I believe this will also be his argument for pseudonymity.

In the motion—which is in some ways similar to that in the Ohio Supreme Court police officer pseudonymous libel lawsuit case, Olthaus [M.R.] v. Niesen—I argue that plaintiff shouldn’t be allowed to proceed pseudonymously, and I also ask the court to unseal the unredacted version of the state court record (the redactions basically being the plaintiff’s name, so that’s connected to the pseudonymity):

Eugene Volokh (a UCLA School of Law Professor) moves to undeal the record of a state court filed in this Court. Also, to challenge the continual pseudonymity of he plaintiff. Volokh wishes to share his thoughts on the case in both his academic writing and his blog. There are reasons Magazine, http:/‌/‌‌volokh; but he is unable to do so effectively because plaintiff’s name is not identified, and because the unredacted state court record, filed in this Court is sealed…. He therefore seeks to exercise his First Amendment rights and claim common law access to court records.

He has filed a separate motion to intervene in this case for the purpose of filing this motion….

[I.]This Court does not have to adhere to the sealing order of the state court and must instead follow federal procedural law regarding sealing and pseudonymity

“Once a case is removed to federal court it is deemed settled that federal law will govern the future proceedings. This applies regardless of any state court orders. Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70, 415 U.S. 423, 437 (1974). Even if the state law covers the specific records, federal law rules motions to seal documents in federal courts. Haynes V. Haggerty, 19-cv-00164 (D. Vt. 2020). This Court must therefore decide the motion according to federal law and not be bound by any state court order. Check out, e.g., Doe V. Doe, 1:20-cv-01002-JG, *3 (N.D. Ohio July 20, 2020), https:/‌/‌‌recap/‌gov.‌uscourts.‌ohnd.‌265633/‌gov.‌uscourts.‌ohnd.‌265633.‌26.‌0.‌pdf (overturning a state court’s grant of pseudonymity upon its removal to federal court); Parson v. Farley, 352 F. Supp. 3d 1141 and 1144 (N.D. Okla. 2018, overturning state seal order following removal to federal court).

It is this Court that has “the strongest interest” in deciding whether its judicial records remain sealed or can be made available to the public.Parson, 352 F. Supp. 3d at 1152. This case is not unique. “As stated in 28 U.S.C. § 1450, the Court has authority to revisit, modify, and dissolve state court orders entered prior to removal.” Hauff v. Petterson, 755 F. Supp. 2d 1138, 1145 (D.N.M. 2010).

[II.]The sealing of records pertaining to judicial proceedings is strongly discouraged.

This right of public access “protects and promotes the integrity and operation of the Judicial Branch.” Doe v. Public Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 263 (4th Cir. 2014). The following criteria are used to determine whether sealing court records is appropriate.[t]The common-law presumption must be used in favour of public access to judicial documents. Nat’l Org. For Marriage v. McKee, 649 F.3d 34, 70 (1st Cir. 2011). “The presumption favoring public access … extends to both civil and criminal trials.” Id.

The First Amendment as well as the common law protect this right. When a court restricts public scrutiny of judicial proceedings, including civil cases, the First Amendment guarantees will be violated. Doe V. Stegall, 653 F.2d 180, 185 & n.10 (5th. Cir. Unit A August 1981 The Federal Courts of Appeal have generally agreed that there is no need for the [First Amendment right of public access]This includes civil proceedings as well as records and documents associated with them.” Courthouse News Services v. Planet, 750 F.3d 776, 786 (9th Cir. 2014); New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Transit Auth., 684 F.3d 286, 305 (2d Cir. 2012); Doe v. Pub. Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 269 (4th Cir. 2014).

The First Amendment access right applies to the press and the general public. Superior Court v. Globe Newspaper Co.457 U.S. 596 (1982), Volokh is in these two categories. The First Amendment rights of access also extend to orders, pleadings and non-discovery actions. Associated Press v. U.S. Dist. Ct. Dist. California, 705 F.2d 1143, 1145 (9th Cir. 1983. (“The public and the press are entitled to access pretrial documents as a matter of course.”); Lugosch v. Pyramid Co., 435 F.3d 110, 124 (2d Cir. 2006);Rushford v. New Yorker Mag., Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988).

Only the strongest reasons could justify disclosing judicial records. Poliquin v. Garden Way, Inc., 989 F.2d 527, 533 (1st Cir. 1988) (cleaned up) (citing FTC v. Standard Financial Management Corp., 830 F.2d 404, 410 (1st Cir. 1987)); See also Siedle, v. Putnam Investments, Inc., 147 F.3d 7, 10 (1st Cir. 1998). 1998 SiedleThe Court of Appeals, 147 F.3d 10, (allowing sealing for limited purposes to protect attorney client privileged material). Public access to documents and judicial records allows citizens to monitor the operation of the courts and ensure quality, honesty, and respect for the legal system. Nat’l Org. For Marriage649 F.3d 70 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting FTC, 830 F.2d @ 410

[III.]Pseudonymity is strongly discouraged

Presumption against public access forbids sealing, but pseudonymity is also prohibited. Because of the strong common law presumption that public access is allowed to all judicial records and proceedings, pseudonymous proceedings in federal courts are disfavored. Does v. Mills, No. 1:11-cv-01242, 2021 WWL 6197377 (D. Dec. 30, 2021) (quoting Re Salem Suede, Inc., 268 F.3d 42, 45 (1st Cir. 2001)). Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate that all parties in a case’s proceedings be made public. Check out Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (‘The title of the complaint must name all the parties … .’).” Doe v. Public Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 273 (4th Cir. 2014). Public has “legitimate interests in all facts and identities, as well as the identity of any parties.” Frank v. Doe, 951 F.2d 320, 322 (11th Cir. 1992).

“The right of the public to find out the identity of all parties is concomitant to the right to access judicial proceedings records and the rights of the public to see them.” Doe v. Provident Life & Ac­cident Ins. Co., 176 F.R.D. 464, 467 (E.D. Pa. 1997). “[T]He plaintiff initiates and is required to be available for public records except in exceptional circumstances. Doe v. Bell Atl. Bus. Sys. Servs., Inc., 162 F.R.D. 418, 422 (D. Mass. 1995). This “requirement” is that pseudonymity should be restricted to the “unusual case.” United States v. Stoterau, 524 F.3d 988, 1013 (9th Cir. 2008). As with sealing, pseudonymity can be presumptively prohibited by both the First Amendment and the common law. Check out, e.g., DePuy Synthes Prod., Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 990 F.3d 1364, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 2021); Re Sealed Case, 931 F.3d 92, 96 (D.C. Cir. 2019); United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1464 (D.C. Cir. 1995); Stegall, 653 F.2d at 85

The strong assumption of public access is based on good reasons:[s]Interessed members of the general public (including journalists and lawyers) can find out who is using the courts to understand the decisions of the judges and monitor how the judiciary performs its duties. Goesel v. Boley Intern. (H.K.) Ltd., 738 F.3d 831, 833 (7th Cir. 2013). Journalists, researchers, and activists can research the name of the plaintiff to find out more about the cases, controversies, or to reach other members of the community or the police who may have important information to help with the case. These writers can only access the counsel of the plaintiff, but they may not be able to give them access.

The people have the right to hold officials responsible and supervise their actions, including the activities of judges. It is much more difficult to do this if the identities of key players are hidden.

[IV.]This article does not refute these presumptions about sealing or pseudonymity.

Courts have routinely found that mere economic or reputational harm—which is what the plaintiff Please seeks to use pseudonymity to avoid (see Doc. No. 8, at 15)—is not enough to overcome the strong presumption against pseudonymity. This plaintiff is much like any other plaintiff, who is denied pseudonymity when he or she is involved in discrimination claims. “Plaintiff wants what most employment-discrimination plaintiffs would like: to sue their former employer without future employers knowing about it. While this desire is understandable and admirable, the system of dispute settlement does not allow for it. Fedcap Rehab. Servs., Inc., No. 17-cv-8220 (JPO), 2018 WL 2021588, *3 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). Instead of pseudonymy being reserved for the rare case, it should be used to avoid “creating an exception that practically swallows” the rule. Doe v. Prudential Ins. Co., 744 F. Supp. 40, 41-42 (D.R.I. 1990).

“Economic harm and mere embarrassment do not suffice to overcome the strong public interest of disclosure.” Doe v. Bell Atl. Bus. Sys. Servs., Inc., 162 F.R.D. 418, 422 (D. Mass. 1995); Doe, v. Word of Life Fellowship, Inc., 2011 WL 2968912, *2 (D. Mass. July 18, 2011. The courts have rejected pseudonymity repeatedly, even when potential accusations were detrimental to economic prospects. Word of Life Fellowship 2011 WL 2968912, *2 (D. Mass. July 18, 2011, (rejecting pseudonymity of alleged child molester, although it is clear that making this allegation public could severely damage the economic and social prospects of the accuser); Southern Methodist University Ass’n of Women Law Students v. Wynne & Jaffe, 599 F.2d 707 (5th Cir. 1979 (rejecting pseudonymity by women alleging that they were subject to sex discrimination in large law firms, despite being threatened with retaliation. MacInnis v. Cigna Grp. Ins. Co., 379 F. Supp. 2d 89 (D. Mass. 2005). (rejecting pseudonymity in a plaintiff contesting denial of mental-health benefits. However, the plaintiff worried that his mental illness would lead to stigmatization.

“[C]However, oncerns regarding annoyance and embarrassment as well as economic harm from prospective or current employers don’t involve information “of the greatest intimacy”. They are the same type of concern that other employees in similar situations harbor, which is why they file retaliation lawsuits.Doe v. Univ. Pittsburgh, No. 1:7-cv-213, 2018, WL 1312219, (W.D. Mich. Mar. 14, 2018). To depart from the requirement for disclosure in this instance would be to say that almost any plaintiff who brings a suit against an employer would have to prove that they are legitimate. Michael v. Bloomberg L.P., No. 14-cv-2657 TPG, 2015 WL 585592, *3 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2015).

Publicly having an opinion is a theory. [Doe’s]”Doc. No. 8.15, is not generally accepted as an argument for sealing these cases or pseudonymity. In this example: Coe v. U.S. Dist. Court for Dist. Court for Dist.A doctor brought suit against the State Medical Board to prevent public hearings about sexual misconduct. 676 F.2d 411 (10th Cir. 1982). According to the plaintiff, pseudonymity should be given because the disclosure of his real identity could cause irreparable damage and even immediate loss of all his property and liberty interests that he sought to protect. 413. The court ruled that Rule 10 (a) was applicable and plaintiff’s privacy interests were outweighed by the public interest. Id.At 414.

This “will undercut any remedy” claim can also be brought by many employment law plaintiffs and libel plaintiffs as well as other litigants. It would be accepted and made public.

[V.]The public has a special interest in the lawsuits filed by police officers and those against government officials

Public access to information about the status of this case and its parties is also possible because the public has a greater right to see their names as well as the record from the state court. Plaintiff is an ex-police officer and wants to return as one. Doc. No. 8, at 15. 8.15 Check out Mangual v. Rotger-Sabat, 317 F.3d 45, 65-66 (1st Cir. 2003). (concluding that police officers generally are “public officials[s]For purposes of libel law, use “

Public access is granted a greater right when the “subject matter of this lawsuit, the status or other characteristics of the litigant, or any other characteristic, creates a strong interest beyond what is normally available for the public in knowing the identities of litigants.” Doe v. Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 409 (3d Cir. 2011). The courts recognized, in fact, that the presumption against pseudonymity applies fully to plaintiffs who are police officers.Mckesson v. Doe, 935 F.3d 253, 266 n.8 (5th Cir. 2019); (rejecting pseudonymity of police officer plaintiff). State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Shanahan, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-448 (2022) (same, in libel case).

Also, plaintiff alleges misconduct against the defendant. The importance of making court documents accessible in instances where the government is involved is magnified in these cases. In such situations, the right for the public to learn about the executive branch and the right of citizens to evaluate the judiciary are combined. FTC v. Standard Fin. Mgmt. Corp., 830 F.2d 404, 410 (1st Cir. 1987). The public can monitor the government and find out the specific details, as well as who made it. In addition, should the plaintiff prevail on his damages claim, the judgment will come out of taxpayer funds. “The public definitely has a legitimate interest in seeing how state revenues are spent,” M.M. v. Zavaras, 139 F.3d 798, 803 (10th Cir. 1998) (rejecting pseudonymity for part on these reasons).


Plaintiff has not overthrown the strong presumption that the public is entitled to access judicial records. This presumption allows the public to inspect the activities of the judiciary and executive agencies in such cases. When the legal system conceals party names or judicial records, this right can be diluted. Volokh requests the Court to unseal state court records and give the plaintiff the right to file lawsuits under his actual name.