United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER DENYING AND DISMISSING MOTION FOR REMOVAL OF
PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff in several cases in this court, which include two
petitions for writs of habeas corpus and an action for libel,
slander, and assault, moves the Court to seal these cases
from public access, or in the alternative, order that all
references by which he could be identified be redacted from
the opinions in each case. The Court denies the motion
insofar as it requests that the entire court file be sealed
and dismisses the motion without prejudice insofar as it
requests that personal information be redacted.
Flanders requests that the Court “remove from
publication in their entirety or otherwise seal from public
access” opinions in the following federal cases, or the
cases in their entirety: Flanders v. Mass. Resistance,
No. 1:12-cv-00262-JAW; Flanders v. State of Maine,
No. 2:12-cv-00277-JAW; Flanders v. State of Maine,
No. 2:12-CV-00278-JAW. Flanders v. Mass. Resistance,
No. 1:12-cv-00262-JAW, Def.'s Mot. for Order for
Removal of Personally Identifiable Information (ECF No.
37); Flanders v. State of Maine, No.
2:12-cv-00277-JAW, Def.'s Mot. for Order for Removal
of Personally Identifiable Information (ECF No. 22);
Flanders v. State of Maine, No. 2:12-cv-00278-JAW,
Def.'s Mot. for Order for Removal of
Personally Identifiable Information (ECF No. 19)
(Def.'s Mot. at 2). In the alternative, Mr.
Flanders requests that “all personal identifiable
information be redacted from these opinions, including but
not limited to my name, address, telephone number, and state
identifiers, and that the Court prevent search engines from
indexing these opinions.” Id.
basis for his motion, Mr. Flanders states that “there
are several hate groups targeting me, publishing my personal
information and encouraging others to stalk and harass me . .
. . They use these government website publications to locate
me and further target my family and I.” Id. at
1. He says that he has received “hateful emails [and]
death threats” and that these groups contacted his
employer, resulting in termination of his employment.
Id. Mr. Flanders contends that “the safety and
private of my family and I outweighs any public interest in
these District Court cases.” Id.
Flanders v. Mass. Resistance, No.
first case Mr. Flanders seeks to have sealed, removed, or
redacted, is a diversity suit he brought “over
allegedly defamatory statements published by Brian Camenker
following Mr. Flanders' dissemination of a tell-all
letter in 2007 exposing the questionable activities of a
Rockland, Maine based homosexual youth group”, which
the Court dismissed as “the allegations in Mr.
Flanders' Complaint are legally insufficient . . . and
Mr. Flanders' additional filings . . . lack merit.”
Order Affirming the Recommended Decision of the
Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 34).
Flanders v. State of Maine, No. 2-12-cv-0277-JAW and
Flanders v. State of Maine, No.
Flanders also requests that the Court seal, remove from
publication, or redact his two petitions for habeas corpus
challenging the validity of multiple state of Maine
convictions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Def.'s
Mot. at 2. The first petition challenges Mr.
Flanders' August 27, 2008 convictions in Knox County
Superior Court for Sexual Abuse of a Minor, 17-A M.R.S.
§ 254(1)(A) and for a probation violation in the same
case. Flanders v. State of Maine, No. 2-212-cv-278,
Pet. For Writ of Habeas Corpus (ECF No. 1).
The second petition challenges a number of Mr. Flanders'
state of Maine convictions in Knox County Superior Court for
Aggravated Assault Class B, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 208(1)(A),
Criminal Threatening Class C, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 209(1),
Violation of a Protective Order Class D, 5 M.R.S.A. §
4659(1), and Violation of Conditions of Release Class E, 15
M.R.S. §1092(1)(A). Flanders v. State of Maine,
No. 2-212-cv-277, Pet. For Writ of Habeas Corpus
(ECF No. 1). The Court denied and dismissed both petitions.
Flanders v. State of Maine, No. 2-212-cv-277,
J. (ECF No. 16); Flanders v. State of
Maine, No. 2-12-cv-278-JAW, J. (ECF No. 19).
is a strong common law presumption favoring public access to
judicial proceedings and records.” In re Salem
Suede, Inc., 268 F.3d 42, 45 (1st Cir. 2001); see
also In re Gitto Glob. Corp., 422 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir.
2005). That presumption is “rooted in a desire to allow
the citizenry to monitor the functioning of our courts,
thereby insuring quality, honesty and respect for our legal
system.” Eil v. U.S. Drug Enf't Admin.,
878 F.3d 392, 398 (1st Cir. 2017) (citation and internal
punctuation omitted). “The courts of this country
recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records
and documents, including judicial records and
documents.” Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns,
Inc., 435 U.S. 570, 597 (1978) (footnotes omitted). The
privilege encompasses “materials on which a court
relies in determining the litigants' substantive
rights.” Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 805 F.2d
1, 13 (1st Cir. 1986). In civil cases, “the plaintiff
instigates the action, and, except in the most exceptional
cases, must be prepared to proceed on the public
record.” Doe v. Bell Atl. Bus. Sys. Servs.,
Inc., 162 F.R.D. 418, 422 (D. Mass. 1995).
the presumption of public access attaches, it remains
possible for a court to seal a document. United States v.
Kravetz, 706 F.3d 47, 59 (1st Cir. 2013). “Though
the public's right of access is vibrant, it is not
unfettered. Important countervailing interests can, in given
instances, overwhelm the usual presumption and defeat
access.” Id. at 59 (quoting Siedle v.
Putman Inv., Inc. 147 F.3d 7, 10 (1st Cir. 1998)).
“When addressing a request to unseal, a court must
carefully balance the presumptive public right of access
against the competing interests that are at stake in a
particular case, keeping in mind that ‘only the most
compelling reasons can justify non-disclosure of judicial
records' that come within the scope of the common-law
right of access.” Id. (quoting In re
Providence Journal Co., Inc., 293 F.3d 1, 10 (1st Cir.
2002)) (quoting F.T.C. v. Standard Fin. Mgmt., 830
F.2d 404, 410 (1st Cir. 1987)).
Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(d) allows a court to order that a
“filing be made under seal without redaction.”
However, before sealing a judicial document, the First
Circuit mandates that the court issue “particularized
findings, ” Kravetz, 706 F.3d at 61, and that
where some portions of a document may be sealed,
“redaction remains a viable tool for separating this
information from that which is necessary to the public's
appreciation of [the court's order].” Id.
at 63. In this District, to “obtain an order allowing
one or more documents or pleadings to be sealed, a party
[must] electronically file . . . a motion to seal together
with the separate document(s) or pleading(s) sought to be
sealed.” D. Me. Loc. R. 7A. The motion must also
“propose specific findings as to the need for sealing
and the duration the document(s) should be sealed . .