United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTIONS TO SEAL AND PROCEED UNDER
B. SARIS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
seeks to file his habeas petition under seal and to proceed
with this action anonymously, citing real fear of physical
danger to Petitioner and his family should the fact of this
suit become known. See ECF Nos. 6, 7. The habeas
petition was initially filed with the Court without
containing Petitioner's true identity and indicated that
Petitioner would move for permission to proceed anonymously
after attempting to confer with the government.
Petitioner's counsel avers that she contacted an
Assistant United States Attorney concerning these matters by
telephone and email and has not received a response as of
November 1, 2018. The Clerk's Office opened this action
as Doe v. Tompkins, et al., C.A. 18-12266-PBS and a
service order issued.
general matter, cases filed in this court are a matter of
public record. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a
case caption setting forth a title containing “the
names of all the parties.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). This
requirement serves the public's important interest in
open judicial proceedings. See Doe v. Public
Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 273 (4th Cir. 2014) (rejecting
company's request to litigate anonymously); see also
Femedeer v. Haun, 227 F.3d 1244, 1246 (10th Cir. 2000)
(rejecting sex offenders request to proceed under pseudonym
in order to prevent widespread disclosure of his sex offender
a party to proceed anonymously may be warranted in
‘exceptional circumstances,' such as ‘matters
of a highly sensitive and personal nature, real danger of
physical harm, or where the injury litigated against would be
incurred as a result of the disclosure of the plaintiff's
identity.'” Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does
1-38, 941 F.Supp.2d 153, 161 (D. Mass. 2013) (Gorton,
J.) (citations omitted). The test for determining whether a
plaintiff may proceed anonymously is whether there is a
substantial privacy right which outweighs the
“‘customary and constitutionally-embedded
presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.' It is
the exceptional case in which a plaintiff may proceed under a
fictitious name.” Doe v. Bell Atlantic Business
Sys. Servs. Inc., 162 F.R.D. 418, 420 (D. Mass. 1995)
(Gorton, J.) (citations omitted). Moreover, it is within a
court's discretion to allow a plaintiff to proceed
anonymously. Id. (denying request of plaintiff
alleging sexual assault to proceed anonymously).
do permit parties to proceed under pseudonyms in
“certain limited circumstances, ” particularly
where a petitioning party can demonstrate “significant
privacy interests or threats of physical harm implicated by
the disclosure of the plaintiff's name.”
Nat'l Commodity & Barter Ass'n v. Gibbs,
886 F.2d 1240, 1245 (10th Cir. 1989). “Courts are more
likely to permit plaintiffs to proceed under a pseudonym when
they are pursuing a claim against the government rather than
a private individual.” International Refugee
Assistance Project v. Trump, 2017 WL 818255, at *3 (D.
Md. 2017) (citing Doe v. Alger, 317 F.R.D. 37, 41
(W.D. Va 2016)).
has expressed a legitimate fear that exposing his name
publicly could lead to physical harm. The court finds that
Petitioner has offered good and compelling reasons that
support his request to proceed under a pseudonym. These
reasons substantially outweigh the presumption of public
this Court hereby orders that:
Motion [ECF No. 7] for leave to file exhibit [ECF No. 1-40]
under seal is allowed. Petitioner shall submit under seal to
the clerk a copy of Exhibit [ECF No. 1-40], which the clerk
is directed to file under seal.
Petitioner's Motion [ECF No. 6] to proceed under
pseudonym (ECF No. 6] is granted. The grant of this motion is
subject to future consideration of the issue upon motion of
any party or by the court sua sponte.
parties will refer to Petitioner by the pseudonym,
“John Doe, ” in all filings; will redact
Petitioner's true name from all documents filed on the
public docket; and will redact all personally identifying
information from all filings in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P.
nonparty who is informed of Petitioner's identify shall
be provided a copy of this Order by the disclosing party ...