United States District Court, D. Colorado
A. BRIMMER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to
Restrict and Proceed Anonymously [Docket No. 2] and the
parties' Stipulation and Notice of Order Entered by the
United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of
Indiana [Docket No. 13].
MOTION TO PROCEED ANONYMOUSLY
bring numerous claims against defendants related to their
alleged roles in failing to prevent the sexual abuse of
plaintiffs by Lawrence Nassar, a doctor employed by USA
Gymnastics. See generally Docket No. 1.
seek to proceed in this lawsuit under the pseudonym
“Jane Doe, ” followed by a unique number. Some of
the plaintiffs are minors; their designated representatives
seek to proceed as either “John Doe” or
“Mary Doe, ” depending on the
representative's gender. Plaintiffs argue that the
litigation will “compel them to disclose information of
the utmost intimacy, ” specifically, the details of the
sexual abuses suffered by plaintiffs. Docket No. 3 at 3.
Plaintiffs claim that the fact that most of the sexual abuse
occurred while plaintiffs were minors weighs in favor of
pseudonymity. Id. Plaintiffs further indicate that
there would be no prejudice to defendants as defendants will
be made aware of plaintiffs' identities in a confidential
manner. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiffs represent that
defendants have not responded to plaintiffs' conferral
request. Docket No. 2 at 2, ¶ 1. Although
defendants' counsel has not entered an appearance,
counsel has signed the stipulated order staying this case.
See Docket No. 13. The Court, therefore, infers that
defendants take no position on this motion.
Supreme Court has acknowledged a common law right of the
public to access judicial records. Nixon v. Warner
Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). This right
is premised upon the recognition that public monitoring of
the courts fosters important values such as respect for the
legal system. See In re Providence Journal Co.,
Inc., 293 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2002). There is a
presumption that documents essential to the judicial process
are to be available to the public, but they may be sealed
when the public's right of access is outweighed by
interests which favor non-disclosure. See United States
v. McVeigh, 119 F.3d 806, 811 (10th Cir. 1997). It is
within the district court's discretion to determine
whether a plaintiff should be permitted to proceed under a
pseudonym. M.M. v. Zavaras, 139 F.3d 798, 802 (10th
Cir. 1998). Because the general rule is that lawsuits are to
be public, a plaintiff will be allowed to proceed
pseudonymously “only in those exceptional cases
involving 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. The risk that a plaintiff may
suffer some embarrassment is not enough.” Id.
at 803 (quoting Doe v. Frank, 951 F.2d 320, 324
(11th Cir. 1992)).
to have considered the issue in the Tenth Circuit have
allowed plaintiffs alleging that they were sexually abused as
minors to proceed under pseudonyms. See S.S. as Next
Friend of L.S. v. Napolitano, 2019 WL 316747, at *3 (D.
Kan. Jan. 24, 2019) (allowing plaintiff to proceed under
pseudonym and noting that “[t]he sexual assault of a
minor involves matters of a highly sensitive and personal
nature”); M.T. v. Olathe Pub. Schs. USD 233,
2018 WL 806210 (D. Kan. Feb. 9, 2018) (allowing plaintiffs
alleging sexual assault of a minor child to proceed under
pseudonyms); Doe v. USD No. 237 Smith Ctr. Sch.
Dist., 2017 WL 3839416, at *11 (D. Kan. Sept. 1, 2017)
(allowing plaintiff alleging sexual harassment as a minor to
proceed under pseudonym). The Court agrees with these courts
that sexual abuse suffered by a minor is a matter of a
“highly sensitive and personal nature.” See
M.M., 139 F.3d at 803.
with the above-cited authorities, the fact that no party has
opposed plaintiffs' request, and the lack of any evidence
that plaintiffs' identities have been made public in
connection with the subject matter of this lawsuit, the Court
will allow plaintiffs to proceed pseudonymously at this
parties have provided the Court with notice that the United
States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana
has stayed this action. See Docket No. 13; see
also Docket No. 14 (order entered in In re USA
Gymnastics, No. 18-09108-RLM-11 (Bankr. S.D. Ind. Apr.
22, 2019)). Having reviewed the matter and being fully
advised in the premises, the Court finds that this case
should be administratively closed subject to reopening for
good cause shown pursuant to D.C.COLO.LCivR 41.2. Therefore,
that Plaintiffs' Motion to Restrict and Proceed
Anonymously [Docket No. 2] is GRANTED. It is
that this case is administratively closed pursuant to
D.C.COLO.LCivR 41.2, subject to being reopened for good cause
shown. It is further
that if no party files a stipulation to dismiss the case or a
motion to reopen the case on or before November 1, 2019, this
case will be dismissed with prejudice without further notice
to the parties and without further action by the Court. It is
that, within seven days of either party filing a motion to
reopen the case, plaintiffs shall file with the Court a copy
of the complaint containing the legal names of each
plaintiff, which shall be ...