You are on page 1of 5
STATE OF NEW YORK SUPREME COURT COUNTY OF ALBANY In the Matter of the Application of JOHN DOE, For a Judgment Under Article 78 of the CPLR Petitioner. Special Purpose Term Hon. Henry F. Zwack, Acting Supreme Court Justice Presiding RJL 01-20-ST1347 Index No. 6989-20 Appearances: Loeb & Loeb LLP Attorneys for the Petitioner Christopher Binns, Esq., of counsel Jay Musoff, Esq., of counsel 345 Park Avenue New York, New York 10154 Hon. Letitia James, Esq. Attorney General of the State of New York Lynn M. Knapp, Esq., of counsel The Capitol Albany, New York 12224 DECISION/ORDER Zwack, J.: The petitioner “John Doe” moves by Ex Parte Order to Show Cause for permission to file an Article 78 under this pseudonym and for a temporary restraining order to seal the records in the matter pursuant to 22 NYCRR §216.1, and for an order precluding the parties, their attorneys, and agents, from publishing the petitioner’s true identity or disclosing any documents filed with the Court in connection with the Article 78 proceeding. The Attorney General was served with the instant application and supporting papers, and opposes. In support, the petitioner offers his counsel’s affirmation — who tells the Court that the petitioner is a former member of the New York State government, and has been separated from State service for two years. The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (‘JCOPE”) voted to commence a substantial basis investigation pursuant to Executive Law §94(13)9b) alleging that the petitioner violated Public Officers Law §73 (3)(h).' Counsel further states, that after a briefing by the involved parties in the JCOPE proceeding, the hearing officer who was assigned to this matter (“Hearing Officer”) recommended that the case be dismissed as a matter of law. On August 24, 2020, JCOPE rejected the ‘This may be a typographical error as there appears to be no such sub- section. Hearing Examiner’s recommendation and remanded the matter for a hearing, The hearing was stayed so that the petitioner could bring an Article 78 against JCOPE. ‘The petitioner’s counsel further argues that, to avoid substantial prejudice to the petitioner, he should be allowed to proceed anonymously, and that the confidentiality provisions of Executive Law §94 actually limit the public’s right to information related to JCOPE investigations in the Commissions final report after a hearing. If the petitioner's Article 78 is successful, the Commission will never even issue such a report, and thus the public will not be entitled to information about the investigation. Counsel also argues that the petitioner's identity should be protected because Executive Law 94 favors limited disclosure and that the petitioner has established good reason for remaining anonymous. Asan initial matter, the Court is mindful of the presumption that the public is entitled to access to judicial proceedings and court records — and that when reviewing a motion to seal under 22 NYCRR §216.1(a), the court, in its exercise of judicial discretion, should balance the competing interests of the parties, the public, and the justice systems, and it is only when the balance favors confidentiality that a party's confidentiality should be preserved (Matter of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 190 AD2d 483, 486 [1 Dept 1993}). Further, no order sealing a court record can be made without a finding of good cause (Anonymous v Commissioner of Health, 21 AD3d 841 [1" Dept 2005). A party seeking to remain anonymous is required to submit evidence corroborating the allegations made in support of the request (Doe v McFarland, 66 Misc3d 604 [Sup Ct, Rockland County 2019)). Claims of damage to reputation caused by allegations of unethical and criminal conduct are not sufficient to permit a litigant to proceed anonymously (Lipakis v Sullivan, 290 AD2d 393 [1 Dept 2002). However viewed, on this record the petitioner has simply failed to set forth any good reason why he should be permitted to proceed under a pseudonym or that the records in the proceeding should be sealed. Simply stated, he offered no evidence whatsoever that would entitle him to the relief requested. ‘There is no supporting affidavit from the petitioner, there is no copy (redacted or otherwise) of the letter sent to the petitioner by JCOPE informing him of its decision to investigate, and the Court certainly has not been advised as to what the petitioner has been accused of or how it will/could eventually prejudice him. In sum, the petitioner has failed to set forth any compelling interest on his part that would be harmed if he was to be investigated under his real name (In re Petrowski, 20 Misc 3d 860 [Sur Ct, Kings County 2008). The lack of information in this submission effectively prevents any balancing test; thus the Court can only conclude that the public is entitled to access in this judicial proceeding. Any other determination would effectively strip away the “institutional value of open judicial proceedings which has fostered an appearance of fairness and ensured that the public interest in having proceedings of courts of justice public, not secret...” (Matter of James Q., 32 NY3d 679 [2019)). Accordingly, it is ORDERED, that the relief demanded in the Ex Parte Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraining Order dated November 5, 2020 is denied. This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court. This original Decision and Order is returned to the Attorney General of the State of New York. All other papers are delivered to the Supreme Court Clerk for transmission to the County Clerk for filing. The signing of this Decision and Order shall not constitute entry or filing under CPLR 2220. Counsel is not relieved from the applicable provisions of this rule with regard to filing, entry and Notice of Entry. Dated: December 18, 2020 Troy, New York \ ( Henry F. Zwack ; Acting Supreme Court Justice Papers Considered: 1. Ex Parte Order to Show Cause with Temporary Restraining Order dated November 5, 2020; Affirmation of Jay K. Musoff, Esq., dated October 29, 2020; 2. Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Petitioner’s Application For TRO.

You might also like