United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
VITALIANO United States District Judge.
February 2014, plaintiff Tamara Nelson filed a complaint,
seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security ("Commissioner") finding that her
disability had ended in April 2010. (Mem. & Order at 5,
ECF No. 18). On December 31, 2014, Judge John Gleeson issued
a Memorandum and Order (the "Order") remanding
Nelson's case to the Commissioner for the calculation and
award of benefits. (Id. at 21). On November 14,
2016, appearing pro se, plaintiff filed a letter
motion, which requested that the Court seal her casefile
because some "law research blogs" had posted the
Order online and the publication of this information was
frightening her. (Letter, ECF No. 17). Without elaboration,
Nelson also asserted that the publication of this material
had caused her to fear for her safety. (Id.). On
December 6, 2016, the Court denied Nelson's motion to
seal this ordinary public court record I. (Order Denying Mot.
to Seal, ECF No. 21).
thereafter filed a letter, which the Court interpreted as a
motion for reconsideration. (Reconsideration Letter, ECF No.
22). In her letter, Nelson distraughtly explained that the
availability of the Order online had only worsened her
anxiety and depression and had caused her to suffer panic
attacks. (Id.). She also offered that, even if the
Order could not be sealed, she would feel better if it did
not appear on law blogs or show up in online search results.
(Id.). The Court denied reconsideration because
Nelson had made "no showing of this; Court's
misapprehension of facts or law at the time of its ruling
that would require this Court to revisit its prior
decision." (12/20/16 Docket Order (citing Schrader
v. CSX Transportation, In:., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir.
by the reaffirmation of the prior ruling, on March 6, 2017,
Nelson filed another letter, styled on the docket as a motion
to seal. (Second Mot. to Seal, ECF No. 23). Ii i this letter,
Nelson reiterated her prior lamentations that her anxiety and
depression had worser ed because of the Order's presence
online. (Id.). The letter went on to explain that
she has lost friends as a consequence. (Id.). All of
this prompted her request that the Order be sealed so t lat
it will be blocked from search engines. (Id.).
initial matter, despite being styled on the docket as a
motion to seal, Nelson's March 6, 2017, letter is more
appropriately characterized as yet another motion for
reconsideration. As such, her motion is untimely because it
was filed more than 14 days following the entry of the order
denying her motion to seal. See E.D.N.Y.Local Civil
Rule 6.3. While her pro se status might excuse the
tardiness, far more importantly, as with her first mo ion for
reconsideration, the present motion does not demonstrate any
misapprehension by the Court of facts or law at the time of
its ruling that would require a revisit of the original
decision. See Schrader, 70 F.3d at 257. The facts
presented in Nelson's March 6, 2017, letter, simply, do
not alter the factual or legal landscape.
denial of her motion in no way suggests that the Court does
not take Nelson at her word that the availability of the
Order online has caused her great distress. The public
availability of such orders is, unfortunately for her, the
consequence of a public dispute resolution system financed
with taxpayer funds. Electronic access, moreover, is not
unique to Nelson's case; nor, surely, is Nelson alone in
unhappiness. In Social Security cases, orders regularly
include sensitive personal health information regarding a
claimant's disability. But, ' we do not have Star
Chamber justice in the United States. Access by the media,
the legal profession and the public at large to courts
deciding cases openly on the public record helps solidify
that arrangement, which is why, consequently, the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure establish a baseline requirement
that orders such as the one aggrieving Nelson will be
available to the put lie through remote electronic access.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(c)(2).
it is the availability of public access to such decisions
that helps ensure the refreshed validity of caselaw and that
parties similarly situated are treated equally under the la
v. In line with these considerations, a movant bears a
weighty burden when requesting that a case be sealed. See
In re Orion Pictures Corp., 21 F.3d 24, 27 (2d Cir.
1994). Succinctly, Nelson'; s predicament is no different
than that facing any other social security claimant who
brings her case in federal court, and, at bottom, nothing in
Nelson's file qualifies for sealing, especially since the
horse of online access to the Order has long since left the
barn. Consequently, neither Nelson's case (broadly) nor
the Order (specifically) will be ordered sealed, and her
motion seeking such relief is denied.
reasons discussed above, Nelson's motion for
reconsideration and for an order sealing her docket is
Court certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3),
that any appeal from this Order would not be taken in good
faith and, therefore, in forma pauperis status is
denied for purpose of an appeal. See Coppedge v. United
States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45, 82 S.Ct. 917, 920-21, 8
L.Ed.2d 21 (1962).
Clerk of Court is directed to mail a copy of this Order to
plaintiff and to ...