• August 4, 2014
Flickr Creative Commons phote by Simon Scott

Flickr Creative Commons phote by Simon Scott

Minnesota Litigator’s focus is on state and federal civil litigation in the state of Minnesota but, from time to time, I go on a walk-about to neighboring jurisdictions or I indulge myself in random navel-gazing.  This is another one of those times.

Check out the attached thorough and extremely well-reasoned decision from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada (George Foley, Jr., Mag. Judge). (There is a discussion of an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, so there is some direct application to Minnesota litigators.)

The issue in the case was whether to seal a complaint full of sweeping accusations of intentional misconduct (sexual battery, battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc.). A few factors in the case make the case for sealing the complaint particularly compelling: (1) the defendants have not been served the complaint, (2) the defendants take the position that the court has no jurisdiction, and (3) the plaintiff avails herself of the mask of anonymity, bringing a “Jane Doe” complaint so maybe fairness dictates that anonymity be a two-way street or at least as to particularly inflammatory and privacy-invading allegations?

Mag. Judge Foley, in my opinion, does a thorough job canvasing the analysis of other courts’ decisions of this difficult intersection between public rights and individual rights and, in my opinion, reaches a sound result.

Judge Foley leans in favor of public access but, at the same time, he provides defendants with an interim period of some degree of privacy to give defendants the opportunity to respond to the allegations before they are made public. In other words, if the defendants are eventually served, if the court finds that it has jurisdiction over the defendants and over the subject matter of the case, the litigation, in its entirety, will be a subject of legitimate public interest without an outweighing interest in secrecy.

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