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From the decision made by Chief Justice Laura Taylor Swain (SDNY) earlier this month Hong v. Sun:

The plaintiff, who resides in the Republic of Korea, is bringing this lawsuit For professionals. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff’s request to limit public access to his court files…. On September 5, 2023, the Court received two emails from Plaintiff asking the Court to “change.” [his] Case to “Private”. The plaintiff states that he received an email, and possibly a phone call, from “a man claiming to be a journalist” who was inquiring about his case. The journalist told Plaintiff that he obtained his contact information from Plaintiff’s “claim file” available on the Court’s Public Access Electronic Records (“PACER”) system. The plaintiff states that he is “scared and worried about this.” [the journalist] I called him. It asks the court to “treat my case as ‘private’ (not ‘public’).”

The court interprets the plaintiff’s letter as a request to proceed anonymously or under a pseudonym and a request that all documents in his case be placed under seal….

Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states: “[t]It is an address [a] “The complaint must name all parties.” “This requirement, although seemingly simple, serves the vital purpose of facilitating public scrutiny of judicial proceedings and therefore cannot be lightly cast aside.” Courts have permitted… a party to proceed anonymously or under a pseudonym in a limited number of circumstances…. [But] {The circumstances here are not exceptional enough to override the presumption of public access.}

The plaintiff, an international investor, brings this lawsuit alleging that the defendants violated his rights when they engaged in securities fraud. Plaintiff also states that this action is connected to another case pending in this court, in which the SEC is prosecuting several of the same defendants. Look again. & Exchange Comm’n v. Sun, No. 23-CV-2433(ER) (SDNY). Such allegations are a matter of public concern and affect plaintiff’s actions under a pseudonym.

Plaintiff’s only argument for proceeding anonymously or under a pseudonym is that he was “scared” and “concerned” when a reporter contacted him after finding his contact information through PACER, a public electronic database of court filings. Plaintiff does not allege any facts indicating that disclosure of his identity or contact information would expose him or any other person to risk of retaliatory physical or mental harm. He is presumed to be an adult, and does not claim to be particularly vulnerable to any potential harm. Whether he intended to do so or not, by filing this action in a United States District Court, Plaintiff has made his name a matter of public record. {In his letter, Plaintiff states that he was not aware that his complaint would be made public, and notes that under Korean law, litigants’ personal information is not made public.} Plaintiff waited more than nine weeks after filing the public complaint before requesting to be kept private. His identity also affects the approval of his request….

The court can also interpret the plaintiff’s request as a request to seal the documents submitted in his case. Both common law and the First Amendment [presumptively] Protecting the public’s right to access court documents…. [T]The document that the plaintiff seeks to seal—his complaint—is clearly a “judicial document.” As discussed above, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that any privacy risks or potential harm he might suffer as a result of public litigation in this action outweigh the public’s presumed access to the judicial process. Therefore, the court rejects the plaintiff’s request for sealing without prejudice to renewal at a later time with appropriate justification….

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