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.

NEXT: The Legitimacy of Conventional Criminal Law

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  1. Prof. Volokh, you do a great job on addressing cases that are improperly sealed.

    Have you looked at this one?

  2. No guarantees and I will not post the results of this process, which took about 90 seconds:
    1. Open case file and find her full name.
    2. Google full name.
    3. Find previous complaints by woman of that name and the town she lives in.
    4. Go to TruePeopleSearch and plug in name and town.
    5. Find woman’s address and phone number.
    It’s quite possible that this is the wrong woman, but what is the likelihood of two or more women with that name living in a relatively small town. TruePeopleSearch is only usually reliable, which means it is frequently unreliable. But anyone wanting to find someone these days can do so fairly easily.
    Motions to seal have a high bar to clear. But even it that hurdle is easily beaten, there is no place to hide.

  3. Prof V, I understand that it’s the fashion, but to be a survivor, one must have been at risk of dying during the traumatic experience. For nearly every person who uses the term, this is not the case. Words, as folks like to say, have meaning. To simply use the term survivor grants a certain status that is quite frankly untrue, unearned, and a bit sad in the user’s apparent need for importance. Ditto ‘everyday hero,’ as heroic acts are those that very few are willing or able to perform, in terrible situations, with the likelihood of dreadful consequences. Our society has an ugly habit of using words to fit the needs of groups -I fear the definition of both will be changed to reflect in-group sensibilities.

    1. “Survival” is not limited to life-or-death situations.

      “I survived Black Friday shopping at Wal-Mart.”

      “I survived the calculus final.”

      “I survived Thanksgiving with my in-laws.”

    2. Hank,
      I get that you gave *your* definition. But I’m not sure dictionaries agree with you (as A Ab alluded to).

      From Oxford:
      noun: survivor; plural noun: survivors

      a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.
      “the sole survivor of the massacre”
      the remainder of a group of people or things.
      “a survivor from last year’s team”
      a person who copes well with difficulties in their life.
      “she is a born survivor”

  4. Hank,
    In the early 90’s I was a private armed security guard for a facility that hid battered spouses and their children that had a verifiable threat against them. More than once I pulled a weapon and had a person face down on the ground until the police came. What was surprising was the number of battered spouses that were men. Every time except once I pulled my weapon on a woman. Hearing what some of them went through, I’d say the term “survivor” fit.

  5. When I read these document I often wonder about the people behind the case.

    It appears that this person, a legally blind woman living in the same city or state with the same name, has filed at least 4 law suits against various government entities in her home state and another state. All of which appear to have been dismissed.

    There appears to be another woman with the same name living in the same city, but she appears much older, having more that 40 years work experience.

    It seems she should be more familiar with the court procedures with that experience.

  6. The pompous calculating arrogance of SCOTUS is irrefutable.

    It rarely listens to a petition for a hearing… no matter how just and desperate, no matter how crucial to right a grievous wrong, no matter the enormity of implications against basic human rights.

    Out of 200 petitions for certiorari, how many, even of those shocking to the conscience, are granted? One, maybe? Or 1.2? Or would they even admit to it? Meanwhile the lower appellate courts strut about with their arrogance of evil, and without supervision.

    Now to get this posted on Twitter, if Jack hasn’t been notified and is standing by to shadow-ban it or flush it.

    1. That low rate of cert is bad and good. Yes, they are heartless and arrogant. However, the less they do, the better off the country. They are always wrong.

  7. What chain is this? Sounds like an overtly illegal method of culling employees. Not a single person reported it for investigation of civil rights violations?

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