United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree, United States District Judge.
procedure generally requires parties to file pleadings that
“name all the parties, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a), but
plaintiff has filed this lawsuit under her initials,
“S.C.” Doc. 1. So, on November 21, 2018, the
court ordered plaintiff to show cause why the court should
allow her to proceed using her initials, rather than her full
name. Doc. 38. Plaintiff has filed a Response to the Show
Cause Order. Doc. 41. For the reasons explained below, the
court concludes plaintiff may proceed using her initials in
present Order, the court provides just a brief summary. S.C.
is the mother of A.J., a minor student at Lansing High
School. S.C. alleges that defendant Jacob Baker, A.J.'s
chemistry teacher, made several sexually harassing comments
to A.J. in class during the fall 2017 semester. S.C. also
alleges that Mr. Baker has harassed at least four other
female students before A.J. On A.J.'s behalf, SC filed a
Complaint naming the following four as defendants: Lansing
Unified School District #469 (“the District”);
Mr. Baker; Darrel Stufflebeam, superintendent for the
District; and Steve Dike, principal of Lansing High School.
S.C.'s Complaint asserts three claims: (1) a Title IX
claim against the District; (2) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
substantive due process claim against all defendants; and,
(3) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 official policy or custom claim
against the District.
an adult party to proceed under a pseudonym in federal court
is, by all accounts, an unusual procedure. Doe v. USD No.
237 Smith Ctr. Sch. Dist., No. 16-CV-2801-JWL-TJJ, 2017
WL 3839416, at *10 (D. Kan. Sept. 1, 2017). Courts recognize
a general right for the public to inspect and copy public
records and documents, including judicial records and
documents. Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435
U.S. 589, 598 (1978). After all, the public is funding the
court. The court should exercise “informed
discretion” and weigh the interests of the public,
which are presumptively paramount, against those advanced by
parties. Crystal Grower's Corp. v. Dobbins, 616
F.2d 458, 461 (10th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). When a
court grants a party permission to proceed under a pseudonym,
it often requires the party to disclose its real name to the
defendant and the court. W.N.J. v. Yocom, 257 F.3d
1171, 1172 (10th Cir. 2001).
narrowly defined permissible exceptions to this rule exist.
They apply when the requesting party shows that the need for
anonymity outweighs the presumption favoring open court
proceedings. Exceptional circumstances apply if the case
involves (1) matters of a highly sensitive and personal
nature, (2) real danger of physical harm, or (3) where the
disclosure would cause the party to sustain the injury that
the litigation seeks to avert. Raiser v. Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 182 Fed.Appx. 810, 811
(10th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).
first exceptional circumstance-matters of a highly sensitive
and personal nature- applies here. The Complaint seeks
damages for discrimination against a minor in violation of
Title IX and § 1983. Courts grant heightened protection
to child victims and have concluded that complaints involving
abuse or harassment of minors may be highly sensitive and
personal in nature. See U.S.D. No. 237, 2017 WL
3839416, at *11; see also J.B. v. Liberal Sch. Dist., USD
No. 480, No. 06-2359-MLB, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67622,
at *5 (D. Kan. Sept. 20, 2006).
A.J.'s mother exceeds the age of majority, and thus, has
more limited privacy interests. Doe v. Cabrera, 307
F.R.D. 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2014) (citations omitted). But, A.J. and
her mother share common privacy interests based on their
relationship to one another. J.W. v. District of
Columbia, 318 F.R.D. 196, 201 (D.D.C. 2016). In effect,
ordering disclosure of S.C.'s identity would place
personally identifiable and confidential information about
the alleged harassment of A.J., a minor, by her adult teacher
in the public record. S.E.S. v. Galena Unified Sch. Dist.
No. 499, No. 18-2042-DDC-GEB, 2018 WL 3389878, at *2 (D.
Kan. July 12, 2018). And so, disclosure of S.C.'s
identity would affect A.J.'s privacy interests directly.
balance, the court finds these circumstances outweigh the
public interest in disclosure of S.C.'s name. Nor does
the court find defendants will suffer prejudice-plaintiff
alleges A.J.'s harassment has been reported to district
administrators by S.C. So, defendants likely know S.C.'s
identity. The court thus concludes that plaintiff may proceed
using initials. She has demonstrated good cause why this case
involves matters of a highly sensitive and personal nature
that outweigh the public interest in disclosure. And
defendants have not shown that they will sustain prejudice.
reasons explained above, the court concludes plaintiff may
proceed using her initials in this case.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT plaintiff has
shown good cause and may proceed ...