Claimant's application to proceed anonymously in claim based on Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is denied where claimant fails to show that her privacy interest outweighs the presumption in favor of openness in judicial proceedings.
|Claimant short name:||DOE|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :||The caption is amended to state the only proper defendant.|
|Judge:||FRANK P. MILANO|
|Claimant's attorney:||JANE DOE
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||February 4, 2021|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
Claimant moves for an order permitting her to "Proceed in Anonymity" in her claim which seeks "damages and declaratory and injunctive relief arising from defendants' violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act." Defendant has not appeared in opposition to the motion.
In support of her request to proceed anonymously, claimant alleges, without submission of any medical or other independent proof of disability, that she has been "declared Total and Permanently Disabled" and fears "others' reactions and stigma."
Claimant, who has a law degree and intends "on sitting for the bar in 2021," further alleges that her anonymity is required based on "prior life experiences I have had that have resulted in embarrassment and anxiety that have occurred when others have learned that I am disabled."
Finally, claimant asserts that because she intends to work as an attorney in the future: "My co-workers, and perhaps clients, would then be attorneys who may arguably follow this case, and there is a highly probable possibility that their awareness of my illness and disability will result in damage to my professional reputation."
The appropriate standard in determining claimant's application to proceed anonymously was recently explained in MGD-5 Doe v Argyle Cent. Sch. Dist. (69 Misc 3d 1209[A] [Sup. Ct., Washington County, October 26, 2020]):
"The determination of whether to allow a plaintiff to proceed anonymously requires the court to use its discretion in balancing plaintiff's privacy interest against the presumption in favor of open trials and against any prejudice to defendant" (Anonymous v Lerner, 124 AD3d 487, 487  [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]. . . "Claims of public humiliation and embarrassment . . . are not sufficient grounds for allowing a plaintiff to proceed anonymously" (Doe v Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, 2019 NY Slip Op 51216[U]. "Other factors considered by the courts include whether . . . plaintiff's situation is compelling, involves highly sensitive matters, including social stigmatization, or involves real danger of physical harm" (Doe v Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, 2019 NY Slip Op 51216 [U]). Notably, "[t]he party seeking anonymity is required to provide evidence corroborating the allegations in support of the request" (Doe v Good Samaritan Hosp., 65 Misc 3d 987, 989 [Sup Ct, Nassau County 2019)."
The Court finds that claimant's application has "failed to make a showing of a substantial privacy right that outweighs the customary and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings" (Wilder v Fresenius Med. Care Holdings, Inc., 175 AD3d 406, 410 [1st Dept 2019]).
The claimant's motion to proceed with her claim in anonymity is denied.
Claimant shall file and serve, within forty-five (45) days of the filing of this Decision and Order, an amended claim that states the names of all parties, as required by CPLR § 2101 (c).
February 4, 2021
Albany, New York
FRANK P. MILANO
Judge of the Court of Claims
1. Claimant's Notice of Motion, filed December 1, 2020;
2. Affidavit of Jane Doe, sworn to December 1, 2020, and attached exhibit.