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Russo v. Hickenlooper

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 6, 2016



William J. Martínez, Judge

This matter is before the Court on United States Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang’s Order Denying the Petition to Seal (ECF No. 7) dated July 30, 2015, and Magistrate Judge Wang’s Recommendation dated August 26, 2015 (“Recommendation”), which recommended that the lawsuit be dismissed without prejudice. (ECF No. 16.) The Recommendation is incorporated herein by reference. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). On August 12, 2015, Plaintiff Salvatore Pete Russo, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) filed an Objection to the Magistrate’s Order Denying the Petition to Seal (the “Objection to the Order”). (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff also filed a timely Objection to the Recommendation. (ECF No. 17.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s Objections to the Order and to the Recommendation are overruled, the Magistrate Judge’s Order Denying the Petition to Seal is affirmed, the Recommendation is adopted, and this matter is dismissed without prejudice.


When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) requires that the district judge “determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s [recommendation] that has been properly objected to.” An objection to a recommendation is properly made if it is both timely and specific. United States v. One Parcel of Real Property Known as 2121 East 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996). An objection is sufficiently specific if it “enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties’ dispute.” Id. In conducting its review, “[t]he district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommendation; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id. In the absence of a timely and specific objection, “the district court may review a magistrate . . . [judge’s] report under any standard it deems appropriate.” Summers v. Utah, 927 F.2d 1165, 1167 (10th Cir. 1991) (citing Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note (“When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record.”).

Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must liberally construe his pleadings. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Trackwell v. United States Gov’t, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007). The Court, however, cannot act as an advocate for Plaintiff, who must still comply with the fundamental requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991).


Plaintiff contends that he is a “pre-1933 Private American National Citizen of the United States of America.” (ECF No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges that this form of citizenship differs from that of general “Public” U.S. citizens. (Id. at 7.) According to Plaintiff, among other things, all Public U.S. citizens were seized as “booty of war” by President Franklin Roosevelt’s use of emergency war powers in 1933. (Id. at 7-8.) Attached to Plaintiff’s Petition to Seal is a document that Plaintiff refers to as his “Declaration of Status.” (Id. at 6-16) In that document, Plaintiff asserts that he has reclaimed his status as a Private American National Citizen. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff also acknowledges that he is a citizen of the State of Colorado. (Id. at 15.)

Plaintiff did not file a complaint in this case. Instead, he filed a “Bill in Equity” containing his allegations against Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (“Defendant”). (ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff alleges that he sent private trust documents to Defendant, along with the aforementioned Declaration of Status. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant acquired trustee duties over two trusts of which Plaintiff is the beneficiary, after Defendant did not disclaim his appointment as trustee within fifteen days of receiving Plaintiff’s mailing. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff is now suing Defendant for breaching his alleged duties under the trust agreements. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks an equitable remedy and requests that the Court enforce the trust agreements. (Id.)

Plaintiff has not yet disclosed the trust documents to the Court. (See ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff emphasizes that the trust documents are private in nature. (ECF No. 18.) For this reason, Plaintiff requested a private meeting with the Court, so that the undersigned could review the documents. (Id.) That motion was denied because the Court does not grant ex parte private meetings with parties or counsel. (ECF No. 19.)


The Magistrate Judge has issued both an Order Denying the Petition to Seal and a Recommendation that the lawsuit be dismissed without prejudice. (ECF No. 7; ECF No. 16.) Plaintiff filed Objections to both of these decisions. (ECF No. 9; ECF No. 17.) The Court will discuss the Magistrate Judge’s filings, along with the respective objections, in turn.

A. Order Denying Plaintiff’s Petition to Seal

Plaintiff's first filing in the case was a Petition to Seal the entirety of the case file. (ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff requests that the Court “proceed with the matter . . . as ‘private’ and ‘sealed’ . . . in chambers, without the public, without publication of the press, excluding spectators and ‘enemies’ of the Court.” (Id. at 1-2.)

Local Rule 7.2(c) instructs that a party seeking to restrict access to judicial records must make a multi-part showing. The party must: (1) identify the document or proceeding for which restriction is sought; (2) identify the interest to be protected and the reasons why that interest outweighs the presumption of public access; (3) identify a clear and serious injury that would result if access is not restricted; and (4) explain why alternatives to restricted access-such as redaction, summarization, or partial restriction-are not adequate. ...

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