Free Speech

No Sealing of Case Based on "Defendant['s] … Damaging Assertions Against Plaintiffs"

"Plaintiffs decided to file a publicly available case and then ask the Court to protect them because defendant might say horrible things about them throughout the course of this litigation.... But harsh words are not a basis to seal a case, especially where it appears that both sides have no qualms about tearing each other down."

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From Friday's decision by Justice Arlene P. Bluth (N.Y. trial ct.) in Choi v. Solomon:

Plaintiff Choi claims that she and defendant lived together, in a platonic relationship, from about October 2010 through October 2019. She claims that defendant lived in their shared apartment, which was always under her name. Choi characterizes defendant as a parasite who was unemployed for much of the time they lived together and Choi ended up paying for the apartment as well as defendant's lavish personal expenses. [More factual details available in the order.-EV] …

Plaintiffs [Choi and a friend with whom she is hoping to conceive a child] bring ten causes of action against defendant for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract [a settlement agreement they had entered to resolve their differences -EV], breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, defamation, permanent injunction, ejectment, attorneys' fees and indemnification.

In this motion, plaintiffs move to seal the record in this case. They claim that defendant has shown he will make numerous and damaging assertions against plaintiffs that will harm their reputations and will have a harmful effect on the child that plaintiffs hope to conceive. Plaintiffs complain that defendant spoke to a newspaper after this case was filed and accuse defendant of "using this Court as a means of delivering revenge."

Defendant, appearing self-represented, asserts that he did not seek out newspaper coverage and merely responded to an email from a reporter. He also argues that plaintiffs brought a case publicly and now want to seal only because it appears that they no longer like news coverage about it.

In reply, plaintiffs ask the Court to seal the case so that they could be protected from untrue and harmful statements alleged by defendant….

"Under New York law, there is a broad presumption that the public is entitled to access to judicial proceedings and court records. This State has long recognized that civil actions and proceedings should be open to the public in order to ensure that they are conducted efficiently, honestly, and fairly." "Confidentiality is clearly the exception, not the rule and the party seeking to seal court records has the burden to demonstrate compelling circumstances to justify restricting public access." …

[T]he Court recognizes that the allegations contained in the pleadings filed by both sides contain salacious assertions. But the fact is that plaintiffs decided to bring this case in court and the doors of this court are open for public view. Plaintiff Choi and defendant apparently entered into a contractual agreement that was supposed to wind down their relationship (both financially and socially). If plaintiffs were so concerned about publicity or public scrutiny, then that agreement … could have contained a private dispute resolution mechanism such as an arbitration or mediation.

Instead, plaintiffs brought the instant case and filed a complaint that was available to the public for over a month before they made the instant motion. Moreover, that complaint contains numerous insults directed at defendant; plaintiffs call defendant "a ne-er-do-well," a "user," "a master manipulator," and "paranoid." If plaintiffs want to hurl mud, they might get dirty.

While there may be instances in which sealing a docket might be appropriate, this case does not present such a circumstance. Plaintiffs decided to file a publicly available case and then ask the Court to protect them because defendant might say horrible things about them throughout the course of this litigation.

But plaintiffs' entire case rests on the notion that defendant has made many hurtful and inflammatory statements over the years. In fact, the complaint suggests that defendant's incendiary statements and actions destroyed the parties' relationships. Unfortunately, sometimes relationships deteriorate and there are hard feelings, which can lead to inexcusable statements. But harsh words are not a basis to seal a case, especially where it appears that both sides have no qualms about tearing each other down.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: November 11, 1975

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  1. As always in these cases I remain skeptical anyone is telling the actual truth.

    The parties lived in the same apartment for 9 years and only now have a dispute?

    1. Choi (Female?) and Solomon (Male) had a “platonic” cohabitation for 10 years while she paid the bills.

      Solomon has gay male friend (Reiner) during most of this time. After many years, he introduces Reiner to Choi. Shortly thereafter, Choi and Reiner decide to have a baby together. They ask Solomon to hit the road.

      So, I am guessing that Solomon thought he was dating one or both of them during this time period and feels betrayed after having introduced them.

      They were going to pay him almost $10k and give him all the furniture if he moved out. And yet … he didn’t.

      Trio turns toxic as two friends sue ‘parasitic’ pal for over $3M
      https://readnews.us/amp/us-news/trio-turns-toxic-as-two-friends-sue-parasitic-pal-for-over-3m

      Epic story.

      1. “What began as a symbiotic relationship between the two quickly turned parasitic,” she charges

        “Quickly” seems at odds with taking ten years to complain.

        The duo embraced a third pal in 2015 — University of California at Berkeley finance lecturer Eric Reiner. The trio became so close, they went on five international vacations, funded by Choi and Reiner.

        “Quickly” seems to be something well more then 5 years.

        Things turned ugly three years later, when the 53-year-old Reiner, who is gay, suggested he and Choi should have a child together.

        Aha! We’ve narrowed “quickly” down to between 5 and 8 years.

        Solomon slammed Reiner, claiming his wealthy one-time friend was simply using Choi to get a baby without having to pay a surrogate.

        Oho! Money finally makes its presence known.

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