Trying to Unseal Affidavit and Block Pseudonymity in Cincinnati Police Officer Libel Case
On July 22, 2020, a Cincinnati police officer filed a complaint in the [Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas] under the pseudonym “M.R.” against five named defendants, and “John Does #1-20,” asserting multiple tort claims, including claims for false light invasion of privacy and defamation arising out statements allegedly made by the defendants on social media and in complaints filed with the Cincinnati Citizens Complaint Authority (“CCA”) ….
In conjunction with the filing of his complaint, M.R. filed a Motion for Leave to File Affidavit Under Seal and to Proceed Under a Pseudonym …. The Underlying Action was assigned to Respondent [Judge Megan Shanahan], who granted the Motion to Seal on July 22, 2020 …. The Sealing Order does not contain any of the findings required by Sup.R. 45(E), merely reciting that the “Court finds such Motion well taken and grants same.” … Although Respondent initially set a hearing on Relators’ motions to unseal, she advised the parties via an email from her staff on August 21, 2020, that the hearing was canceled….
The First Amendment … gives the public a presumptive right of access to court documents filed in a civil case. See Rudd Equip. Co., Inc. v. John Deere Constr. & Forestry Co., 834 F.3d 589, 593 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. FTC, 710 F.2d 1165, 1179 (6th Cir. 1983)). See also State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ’g Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St. 3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180 (recognizing First Amendment right of access to documents filed in criminal proceedings). “A plaintiff’s use of a pseudonym ‘runs afoul of the public’s common law right of access to judicial proceedings.'” Doe v. Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 408 (3d Cir. 2011) (citation omitted); see also In re Sealed Case, No. 19-1216, 2020 WL 4873248, *2 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 20, 2020); Doe v. Public Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 273 (4th Cir. 2014). Consistent with the First Amendment, Superintendence Rule 45(A) provides that “[c]ourt records are presumed open to public access.” …
Both a complaint and affidavit filed with the clerk of court in a civil action constitute “a document or information in a document submitted to a court or filed with a clerk of court in a judicial action or proceeding.” Thus, M.R.’s name, and his affidavit, each constitute a “case document” within the meaning of Sup.R. 44(C)(1). An affidavit of the kind at issue here is not exempt fr
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