United States District Court, District of Columbia
MICHAEL HARVEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter has been referred to the undersigned for full case
management. Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for
leave to proceed anonymously. The motion is ripe for
resolution. Upon consideration of the parties' briefs and
the entire record herein,  the Court will grant the motion.
allege that they are parents of children eligible for special
education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.
(“IDEA”). Am. Compl., ¶ 2. They claim to
have prevailed in IDEA litigation and therefore seek payment
of their attorney's fees and costs under that
statute's fee shifting provision. Id.,
¶¶ 3, 10-13.
to Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is a table purporting to
list the fees incurred in obtaining relief in six Hearing
Officer's Decisions related to four students. Am. Compl.
App'x. The table also identifies the parents of three of
the students by their initials. Id. Plaintiff D.B.
is the parent of the student D.B., Plaintiff M.G. is the
parent of the student K.H., and Plaintiff T.U. is the parent
of the student T.U. Id. The instant dispute focuses
on whether those parents should be permitted to proceed
anonymously in this action.
public has a right of access to civil cases that is grounded
in the First Amendment. Nat'l Ass'n of Waterfront
Employers v. Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d 90, 98 (D.D.C. 2008);
see also Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc. 435 U.S.
589, 597 (1978). That right informs Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 10(a), which requires that a plaintiff name all
parties in a complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a). The public right
of access can come into conflict with important competing
privacy interests, however. Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d at
98. In such an instance, it is within the discretion of a
court to grant the “rare dispensation” of
anonymity, subject to the requirement that a court
“inquire into the circumstances of [a] particular
case.” United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56
F.3d 1448, 1464 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks
omitted). In considering such a request, a court must balance
a party's reasons for wanting to proceed anonymously
against the public interest and the public right of access,
as well as any unfairness anonymity might work on the
opposing party. Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d at 99. While
encroachment upon the right of access may be required
“to preserve higher values, ” it must be
“narrowly tailored” to that end. Id. at
98 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Court generally applies a five-part test to balance the
concerns of plaintiffs seeking anonymity with those of
defendants and the public interest. J.W. v. District of
Columbia, Civ. Act. No. 16-0573 (RC), 2016 WL 4543993,
at *2 (D.D.C. Aug. 31, 2016). That test is:
(1) whether the justification asserted by the requesting
party is merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may
attend any litigation or is to preserve privacy in a matter
of a sensitive and highly personal nature;
(2) whether identification poses a risk of retaliatory
physical or mental harm to the requesting party or even more
critically, to innocent non-parties;
(3) the ages of the persons whose privacy interests are
sought to be protected;
(4) whether the action is against a governmental or private
(5) the risk of unfairness to the opposing party from
allowing an action against it to ...