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No Pseudonymity as to PTSD-Based Lawsuit About City Siren

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From Doe v. City of Ludington, decided today by Judge Hala Jarbou (W.D. Mich.)

Plaintiffs are anonymously suing the City of Ludington for moving and re-connecting a siren in Copeyan Park in downtown Ludington, which allegedly exacerbated Plaintiff John Doe's post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) from his two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one tour of duty in Iraq with the American Armed Forces. Plaintiffs claim that the City of Ludington has violated Plaintiff John Doe's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) by refusing Plaintiffs' proposed reasonable accommodation of only using the siren for emergencies. Plaintiffs also allege pendant state claims for nuisance, city code violations, and a request for injunctive relief….

Courts begin with a presumption of open judicial proceedings. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure generally require a complaint to state the names of all parties. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a). A plaintiff may proceed anonymously only in exceptional circumstances …. Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that their privacy interests substantially outweigh the presumption in favor of open judicial proceedings….

Plaintiffs' fears of social stigma or harm to their reputations fail to outweigh the general interest in favor of open judicial proceedings. Such fears, without more, are not enough to justify an exception. And that is especially true here, where Plaintiffs' identities are already known. {Justin Cooper, City OKs Settlement Talks with Veteran Triggered by Copeyon Park Siren, Ludington Daily News (Mar. 15, 2022), [URL].} The public interest in guaranteeing open access to judicial proceedings requires a heavy basis to overcome…. "One of the essential qualities of a Court of Justice is that its proceedings should be public." … Plaintiffs have failed to meet this burden….

If Plaintiffs wish to proceed with this litigation, they shall file an amended complaint in their full names within seven days from the date of this Order. If they fail to comply, the Court may dismiss the case for lack of prosecution….

For more on the case, see the Complaint.