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Doe v. Volokh

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  1. Court Access

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Date Filed: Sept. 19, 2022

Update: On Aug. 16, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling permitting the police officer to proceed under a pseudonym.

Background: A New Hampshire police officer filed a federal lawsuit, under the pseudonym “John Doe,” claiming that his inclusion in a statewide police misconduct database violated his procedural and substantive due process rights and constituted defamation. Doe’s claims seeking removal from the list were remanded to state court.

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, moved to intervene in the federal case to unseal the complaint and to oppose the police officer’s continued pseudonymity in the district court. The district court denied Volokh’s motion without prejudice, prompting the professor to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Our Position: The First Circuit should reverse the district court’s order denying Volokh’s motion to unseal and oppose pseudonymity.

  • The First Circuit has jurisdiction over the appeal under the collateral order doctrine, which allows for immediate appellate review of certain orders issued while a case is still ongoing.
  • There is a strong presumption against pseudonymous litigation, which undermines the public’s right of access to judicial proceedings and documents.

Quote: “Permitting Doe to litigate this case pseudonymously will hinder the news media’s ability to fully inform the public about ongoing judicial proceedings of substantial public concern.”

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