The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Free Speech

Sealing and People Covered by Domestic Violence Protective Orders


McCoy v. Colorado Dep't of Human Services, decided June 4 by the Tenth Circuit (Judge Joel Carson, joined by Judges Scott Matheson & Mary Briscoe), upheld the dismissal of a pro se lawsuit, but said this about the plaintiff's motion to seal:

In its final order the district court restricted the public's access to the filings and orders on its docket and redacted McCoy's address. Those restrictions remain in effect in district court. We take judicial notice that the district court has also sealed at least three other cases brought by McCoy involving similar subject matter.

We provisionally sealed the entire appeal. But we issued an order directing McCoy to show cause whether and why her address and/or the filings in this appeal needed to remain sealed. She has filed a response.

"A party seeking to file court records under seal must overcome a presumption, long supported by courts, that the public has a common-law right of access to judicial records. To do so, the parties must articulate a real and substantial interest that justifies depriving the public of access to the records that inform our decision-making process."

McCoy asserts that she and her children are survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, are the subject of state-court protective orders, and are at risk of being killed if they are located. The docket, the record, and the filings in this appeal reflect her street address, and the panel has determined it is appropriate to redact that information. To the extent McCoy seeks to seal other information in this case, however, she has failed to satisfy her burden. We therefore order as follows:

  1. The clerk of this court shall unseal this appeal.
  2. The record on appeal and any documents separately filed under seal (g. her motion to proceed IFP in this court) shall remain under seal.
  3. The clerk shall redact McCoy's address, including her telephone number and email address, from the court's docket and from orders, pleadings, and correspondence filed in this appeal, including accompanying envelopes.