Case Number: 1:21-cv-00242-JDL
Court: U.S. District Court, District of Maine
Clients: Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, Sun Journal
Motions to Intervene Filed: Nov. 10, 2021
Background: In August 2021, a group of healthcare workers in Maine filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine against the governor and senior health officials challenging the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which does not provide religious exemptions. Among other things, the workers sought a preliminary injunction that would halt enforcement of the vaccine mandate. The workers also sought the court’s permission to litigate the case anonymously. The court granted the workers request to proceed under pseudonyms, but reserved the right to revisit the issue should the case proceed beyond the preliminary injunction stage.
In October 2021, the court denied the workers’ request for a preliminary injunction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied the workers’ application for emergency injunctive relief.
As the case continues beyond the preliminary injunction stage, a coalition of local news organizations in Maine, represented by attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and law firm Preti Flaherty LLP, are challenging the workers’ ongoing use of pseudonyms, arguing that permitting the workers to remain anonymous would hinder the news media’s ability to access proceedings and records in this case in violation of the press and the public’s First Amendment and common law right of access to court proceedings and judicial records.
Quote: “Allowing civil litigants to proceed under pseudonyms withholds valuable information from the press and the public about pending litigation and functions as a form of closure of court proceedings and records,” the news outlets’ motion to intervene states. “In addition, if Plaintiffs are permitted to continue to pursue their claims in this matter pseudonymously, this Court will necessarily be asked to take further steps to preserve their anonymity — such as closing the courtroom during a Plaintiff’s testimony — that would further deprive the Media Intervenors of their presumptive rights of access to court proceedings and records in this case.”