L.V.Q. v. The GEO Group, Inc.

Filing 6

ORDER GRANTING #2 Plaintiff's Ex Parte Motion to Proceed Under Pseudonym and for Protective Order, signed by Magistrate Judge Christopher D. Baker on 6/5/2024. (Hall, S)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 Case No. 1:24-cv-00656-KES-CDB L.V.Q., Plaintiff, v. ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S EX PARTE MOTION TO PROCEED UNDER PSEUDONYM AND FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER THE GEO GROUP, INC., (Doc. 16) 15 Defendant. 16 17 18 On June 3, 2024, Plaintiff initiated this action with the filing of a complaint against Defendant 19 The GEO Group, Inc. (“Defendant”). (Doc. 1). That same day, Plaintiff filed an ex parte motion to 20 proceed under pseudonym and for protective order. (Doc. 2). Plaintiff requests to proceed by the 21 pseudonym “L.V.Q.” in place of his true and correct name. Id. Further, Plaintiff asks the Court for a 22 protective order that requires the parties to redact or otherwise withhold all personally identifying 23 information, including Plaintiff’s true full name, from all public filings, consistent with Federal Rule 24 of Civil Procedure 5.2. Id. For the reasons below, Plaintiff’s ex parte motion is GRANTED, subject 25 to reconsideration following Defendant’s appearance in this action. 26 Legal Standard 27 While the presumption in litigation is that parties must use their real names, courts permit 28 parties to proceed anonymously when special circumstances justify secrecy. Does I thru XXIII v. 1 1 Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1067 (9th Cir. 2000).1 The Ninth Circuit has held a party may 2 proceed with a pseudonym “in the unusual case when nondisclosure of the party’s identity is 3 necessary…to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.” Id. at 4 1067-68 (internal quotation and citation omitted). “[A] party may preserve his or her anonymity in 5 judicial proceedings in special circumstances when the party’s need for anonymity outweighs 6 prejudice to the opposing party and the public's interest in knowing the party’s identity.” Id. at 1068. 7 The decision of whether to allow a party to remain anonymous is within this Court’s discretion. Doe 8 v. Kamehameha Sch., 596 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2010). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9 5.2(e), for good cause, a court may require redaction of certain personal information from court 10 filings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(e). 11 Discussion 12 Plaintiff requests to proceed by the pseudonym “L.V.Q.” to protect his private health 13 information, “vulnerable immigration status,” and because this action involves allegations of sexual 14 assault. (Doc. 2 at 3). 15 From 2018 through 2022, Plaintiff was held at Mesa Verde Immigrations and Customs 16 Enforcement (“ICE”) Processing Center (“Mesa Verde”) for civil immigration detention. (Doc. 1 at 17 ¶¶ 2-3). Mesa Verde is a private immigration detention center owned and operated on behalf of ICE 18 pursuant to a federal contract by Defendant. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 27. Plaintiff claims during his detainment at 19 Mesa Verde, he was a victim of sexual harassment and assault. See id. at ¶¶ 4, 85, 98, 101-09. 20 Plaintiff asserts he is at a “high risk of serious personal embarrassment and emotional injury if he is 21 forced to proceed with his real identity.” (Doc. 2 at 4). Plaintiff also asks for anonymity as his mental 22 and physical health conditions are a principal issue in this case and his private health information will 23 be disclosed. Id. at 5. Separately, Plaintiff requests anonymity due to his pending immigration case, 24 which includes an application for relief under the Convention Against Torture. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff 25 indicates his identity will be disclosed to Defendant during this litigation. Id. at 4. 26 27 28 This presumption is loosely related to the public’s right to open courts and the right of private individuals to confront their accusers. Doe v. Kamehameha Sch., 596 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2010). 1 2 1 At this stage of the proceedings, the Court finds good cause to grant Plaintiff’s request to 2 proceed under pseudonym and to redact Plaintiff’s true name under Rule 5.2(e)(1). The Court finds 3 based on Plaintiff’s allegations and concerns at issue, the need for anonymity in this case outweighs 4 countervailing considerations at this time. “Courts have generally permitted plaintiffs to proceed 5 anonymously when their claims involved allegations of sexual assault or rape.” Doe v. California, No. 6 1:23-cv-00868-JLT-BAM (PC), 2023 WL 3996476, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Jun. 14, 2023) (citing Doe v. 7 Rose, No. CV-15-07503, 2016 WL 9137645, at *1-2 (C.D. Cal. Jun. 17, 2016) (collecting cases)); see 8 A.G. v. Cnty. of Siskiyou, No. 2:24-cv-01375 CKD, 2024 WL 2304851, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 21, 9 2024). Likewise, private health information and immigration status can be a basis to prohibit 10 disclosure of a plaintiff’s true and correct name. Ms. R.H. v. United States, No. 23-cv-05793, 2023 11 WL 7563749, at *1-2 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 14, 2023) (collecting cases); Doe v. Sessions, No. 18-0004 12 (RC), 2018 WL 4637014, at *4-5 (D.D.C. Sep. 27, 2018). However, the Court will reconsider the 13 issue should Defendant object once it has appeared in this action. See Doe v. California, No. 1:32-cv- 14 00869-JLT-SAB, 2023 WL 3956475, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Jun. 12, 2023). 15 Conclusion and Order 16 For the foregoing reasons, the Court HEREBY ORDERS: 17 1. Plaintiff’s ex parte motion to proceed under pseudonym and for protective order (Doc. 2) is 18 GRANTED, subject to reconsideration following Defendant’s appearance in this action; 19 2. Defendant shall file an opposition, objection, or statement of non-opposition to Plaintiff’s ex 20 21 22 parte motion, within 14 days of responding to the complaint; 3. The parties shall refer to Plaintiff by the pseudonym L.V.Q. in all filings and public proceedings; and 23 24 Remainder of This Page Intentionally Left Blank 25 26 27 28 3 1 4. The parties shall redact or otherwise withhold all personally identifying information, including 2 Plaintiff’s true full names, from all public filings, consistent with Federal Rule of Civil 3 Procedure 5.2. 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 6 Dated: June 5, 2024 ___________________ _ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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