Free Speech

Court Rejects Attempt to Retroactively Seal or Pseudonymize Past Case

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I wrote about this general issue earlier this month, and my post began with a discussion of several sealing requests submitted by the same litigant. Just today there was another decision in one of his cases, Del Nero v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc., handed down by Judge Joshua Wolson (E.D. Pa.):

Plaintiff Darren Del Nero's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case was dormant for more than 8 ½ years. Then, on May 24, 2021, Mr. Del Nero filed a motion asking the Court to seal the entire record and redact certain identifying information such as his name, address, and email address. On June 10, 2021, the Court granted Mr. Del Nero's motion in part and permitted him to submit docket entries that redact his street and email addresses. However, the Court denied Mr. Del Nero's request to seal the entire record or replace his name with a pseudonym. Now, Mr. Del Nero asks the Court to reconsider that decision. {Mr. Del Nero's filings indicate that he utilizes various aliases including Darren Del Nero, Darren Chaker, Darren Chaker-Del Nero, and David Hunter.} …

First, … [w]hile Mr. Del Nero attaches a few intervening decisions where other courts sealed some or all of the filings in those cases, none of those decisions are binding on this Court, and therefore the decisions do not constitute a change in controlling law….

Second, Mr. Del Nero's new evidence does not change the Court's prior analysis. To support his Motion for Reconsideration, Mr. Del Nero attached text messages that he received on June 11, 2021, the day after the Court issued its Order. According to Mr. Del Nero, the text messages contain "photos of headless males," and he believes that the "Bulgarian Mafia" sent him these photos in an effort to intimidate him for his cooperation with law enforcement in a pending criminal matter. However, as the Court set forth in its prior Memorandum, sealing Mr. Del Nero's identity in this case will not shield him from further harassment. The people who have targeted Mr. Del Nero know who he is, and, apparently, have his phone number as well. The Court cannot change that with a sealing order. The harassment of Mr. Del Nero, as disturbing as it may be, has nothing to do with Mr. Del Nero's involvement in this case, and sealing this case or Mr. Del Nero's identify in this matter will not shield him from further harassment….

Third, … Mr. Del Nero … continues to rely on California laws that do not govern the Court's analysis and does not assert any colorable basis for the Court to depart from the governing standards set forth by the Third Circuit….

Also, Mr. Del Nero maintains a fairly robust public presence online. Indeed, a simple Google search has identified at least two websites that appear to belong to him, and those sites contain pictures of him and links for visitors to contact him on his various social media accounts such as Facebook, flickr, LinkedIn, StackExchange, Twitter, Vimeo, and Pinterest. See https://www.darrenchaker.com/ (last accessed on Aug. 11, 2021); https://www.darrenchaker.us/ (same). Even Mr. Del Nero's motion references the fact that he provided an interview to Fox News as a witness to a violent crime, and he included a link to view that interview online. None of this conduct is consistent with the relief that Mr. Del Nero seeks in his motion, and such conduct belies Mr. Del Nero's assertion that "having such material in the public record could be a death sentence."

Finally, the Court notes that Mr. Del Nero's Motion contains both his street and email addresses, both of which the Court has permitted him to redact from filings. In addition, Mr. Del Nero attached as exhibits certain court decisions that appear to be under seal in those cases. Thus, the Court will permit these materials to be redacted from public view.

In light of the foregoing, it is ORDERED as follows:

  1. Plaintiff Darren Del Nero's Application to File Under Seal and Motion for Reconsideration of Ex Parte Motion to Seal Records … is DENIED;
  2. The Clerk of Court shall keep Mr. Del Nero's Motion … under seal until further Order of this Court;
  3. On or before August 20, 2021, Mr. Del Nero shall provide the Court with a redacted version of his Motion, redacting his address information, as well as Exhibits A, D, E, and L, which appear to be under seal in other cases. Mr. Del Nero may send electronic versions of the redacted documents to [the Court]. If Mr. Del Nero does not provide the Court with redacted documents, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to unseal the Motion without further notice to Mr. Del Nero ….