Court To Frat Boys: Openness Of Courts More Compelling Than Your Potential Embarrassment
from the can't-have-your-pot-and-smoke-it-too dept
The court however, completely rejects this request, noting the importance of open and public court procedures. While it does admit that there are cases where plaintiffs are allowed to proceed under pseudonyms, that tends to be in cases where to come forward would put them in direct danger -- not direct danger of being publicly associated with things they actually did. Basically, the court notes that while it may be embarrassing for this information to end up on the web, these guys are adults who made their own choices, and keeping the fact that you were busted with drugs secret is quite different from keeping information secret to avoid being thrown in an Iranian prison:
There is no potential for serious harm to Plaintiffs in the case at bar. There are also no special circumstances that would justify an exception to one of the hallmarks of the American democracy, the openness of our courts. This is not a case involving "abortion, birth control, transexuality, mental illness, welfare rights of illegitimate children, AIDS, and homosexuality." ... The only harm to Plaintiffs is that which they identified — the embarrassment of possession of contraband and that news media outlets may discuss the story, which will then live in perpetuity through web searches on the internet.Basically, the 4th Amendment issues may be worth exploring, but there's no compelling argument for keeping their names out of the case. Just because their names -- and the associated actions -- may "live in perpetuity through web searches on the internet," that's no reason to allow them to stay anonymous.
The Megless/Provident Life/Citizens for a Strong Ohio factors certainly mitigate against Plaintiffs arguments in favor of anonymity. Plaintiffs here are not children, but adults who have left the nest to explore the world; albiet, the semi-sheltered world of college life at a private, small, expensive liberal arts college in rural Pennsylvania.
Bucknell kept the students disciplinary record confidential; Plaintiffs have therefore been protected from public disclosure up to this point. However, the Bucknell's desire to protect its students has no bearing on the instant proceedings. The public has no compelling need to protect the identities of adults alleging Fourth Amendment violations (to be contrasted with the use of pseudonyms for sexual assault victims, the public has a compelling need to protect identities to promote disclosure by these victims). Moreover, this case does not involve private medical information; a risk to Plaintiffs of future imprisonment in the Peoples Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even in the United States; nor does it involve the threat of loss of the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.