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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Arulpragasam v. Bronfman, 2013 WL 2249256 (E.D.N.Y.) [England] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Use of Pseudonyms in Civil Litigation]

 In Arulpragasam v. Bronfman, 2013 WL 2249256 (E.D.N.Y.) Petitioner Mathangi Arulpragasam filed a petition under the Hague Convention seeking an order directing Respondent Benjamin Bronfman to refrain from retaining their son in New York and allowing Petitioner and son to return to England.

Petitioner requested that the following information be redacted from all court filings: 1. "[A]ll identifying information about the [c]hild (to protect his privacy and safety), including his name, the school he is now attending" and certain other personal information regarding the child; 2. "[I]dentifying information about [P]etitioner (to protect her safety and effectuate the [c]hild's privacy concerns)," to include Petitioner's home address and other personal information; and 3. "[T]he names of the parties (to effectuate the foregoing), including revision of the caption to be 'Anonymous v. Anonymous.' "

The Court granted the first two requests and denied the third request. It observed that this was not a child custody case, and was not governed by New York law, but by a treaty which Petitioner did not assert provided for the sealing of this proceeding. Petitioner argued that the Second Circuit's decision in United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044 (2d Cir.1995), supported the redaction of the personal information requested. The Court agreed with Petitioner that some of the information that Petitioner sought to redact from the filings should be redacted. Pursuant to Rule 5.2 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties are required to redact certain personal information from all documents filed with the Court, including the name of the child. As to the other personal information Petitioner sought to redact, the Court found that such information should be redacted from all filings.

The Court denied Petitioner's third request which sought to conceal the identity of the parties in this case and to identify them as Anonymous v. Anonymous. Petitioner's only argument in support of this request was that "removing the parties' names from the caption will lessen the likelihood of interest being directed toward" the case. The Court held that the public's interest in Petitioner is not a legal basis for sealing this proceeding, nor is it a legal basis for anonymity. In Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, the Second Circuit discussed the standard governing the use of pseudonyms in civil litigation. 537 F.3d 185, 189-90 (2d Cir.2008). The court stated that "the interests of both the public and the opposing party should be considered when determining whether to grant an application to proceed under a pseudonym. Accordingly, we ... hold that when determining whether a plaintiff may be allowed to maintain an action under a pseudonym, the plaintiff's interest in anonymity must be balanced against both the public interest in disclosure and any prejudice to the defendant." Id. at 189.The Second Circuit held that the balancing of interests entails the consideration of several factors citing. It noted that this list is non-exhaustive and district courts should take into account other factors relevant to the particular case under consideration Although Respondent did not oppose Petitioner's requests, Petitioner did not convince the Court that the balance of these factors weighed in her favor.

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