United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ANDREW K. BONNER, JR., Plaintiff,
JUSTIA INCORPORATED, et al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on two motions and one
application: (1) a motion to dismiss the amended complaint;
filed by Defendant Justia, Inc. ("Justia"), (2) an
application by Plaintiff requesting that the order on the
motion to dismiss not "be reported, copied, distributed
shared, or by any other means used by anyone or any
website," which the Court construes as a motion to seal;
and (3) a motion by Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the
University of California who seeks to intervene in opposition
to Plaintiffs motion to seal.
and Procedural History
Court previously dismissed the original complaint on a Rule
12 basis and this motion is to dismiss an amended complaint
naming Justia, Inc., as the sole defendant. (ECF No. 23).
context, the Plaintiff was a litigant in an underlying state
court case. Bonner v. Cumberland Reg'l High
Sch. Dist., 2017 WL 2774081 (N. J. App. Div. June 27,
2017). In that case', the Appellate Division issued an
opinion. Plaintiff seems to believe the opinion is his
persona property. In this action, Plaintiff is apparently
seeking to seal the opinion in the Appellate Division matter.
The original federal complaint references a New Jersey state
court action in which ho alleged he was bullied and harassed
"while he was a student at Cumberland Regional High
School." Id. Plaintiffs school concluded his
claims were unfounded, which led to the Appellate
Division's opinion. The trial court granted summary
judgment, and the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed.
Plaintiff then commenced this case on other grounds.
Plaintiff claims, "There was a theft and embezzlement of
[his] property"; without any supporting facts.
(Id. at 3). He merely claims, "Justia Inc.
stole my property in order to deprive me of it as well as
damaged other property belonging to me." (Id.).
Plaintiff justified the lack of facts, stating that he
"wishes to not disclose more in this document and
instead will make things clear in the exhibits, trial
testimony, and briefing." (Id.). Plaintiff
seeks damages for "emotional distress, depression,
change in emotional behavior, intimidation, improper
disclosure, legal abuse syndrome, anger, victimization, [and]
scapegoating." (Id. at 4). Plaintiff seeks
"a jury trial so the jury can fully consider all of the
facts set out in the case." (Id.).
not alleged in the amended complaint, according to
Justia's brief, it is a provider of free online legal
information. Justia obtained Bonner's opinion from the
online repository of New Jersey case law maintained by
Rutgers University. Justia posted the Appellate Division
Opinion on its website for the public to access for free.
addition to being a law professor, Mr. Volokh is currently
writing a law review article about individuals attempting to
have opinions taken down from the internet. He also writes an
online blog about internet takedown litigation. Further,
Professor Volokh has identified several cases in which courts
have permitted an interested party like himself to file
similar motions to intervene pro se. See, e.g.,
In re Application to Unseal 98-cr-1101(ILG), 891
F.Supp.2d 296, 297-98 (E.D.N.Y. 2012); FTC v. OSF
Healthcare Sys., 2012 WL 1144620, at 1 (N.D. Ill. April
5, 2012); In re Sealed Search Warrants Issued June 4 and
5, 2008, 2008 WL 5667021 (N.D.N.Y. 2008). Professor
Volokh has also cited cases in which he has intervened pro se
to oppose a motion to seal or to file a motion to unseal.
See Furtado v. Henderson, 2018 WL 6521914 (D. Mass.
Nov. 26, 2018); Barrow v. Living Word Church, No.
3:15-CV-341 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 16, 2016); Doe v. Does,
No. 1:16-CV-7359 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 11, 2019); Parson v.
Farley, 352 F.Supp.3d 1141, 1147 (N.D. Okla. 2018).
Volokh articulated that he has an interest in intervening in
this action because he is writing a law review article
related to the subject matter of this litigation.
(See Brief of Eugene Volokh, ECF No. 33 at 3).
interested person may move to intervene pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b) before the return date of any motion to
seal or otherwise restrict public access or to obtain public
access to materials or judicial proceedings filed under
seal." L. Civ. R. 5.3(c)(5). The Third Circuit has
"routinely found, as have other courts, that third
parties have standing to challenge protective orders and
confidentiality orders in an effort to obtain access to
information or judicial proceedings." Pansy v.
Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772, 777 (3d Cir. 1994).
"[T]he procedural device of permissive intervention is
appropriately used to enable a litigant who was not an
original party to an action to challenge protective or
confidentiality orders entered in that action."
Id. at 778.
Volokh's motion to intervene pro se is more like an
application to appear as amicus curiae, as he has special
knowledge of this area of law. As such, Professor Volokh is
allowed to file a brief and argue the merits of the motion to
seeks to prevent the Appellate Division Opinion from being
"reported, copied, distributed, shared, or by any other
means used by anyone or any website." (ECF No. 26).
"[T]he courts of this country recognize a general right
to inspect and copy public records and documents, including
judicial records and documents." Nixon v. Warner
Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). The Third Circuit
has recognized "that the public and the press possess a
First Amendment and a common law right of access to civil
proceedings; indeed, there is a presumption that these
proceedings will be open." Publicker Industries,
Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059, 1071 (3dCir. 1984).
However, "the trial court may limit this right . . .
when an important countervailing interest is shown."
specifically, there is "a presumption that 'all
materials and judicial proceedings are matters of public
record and shall not be sealed.'" Novo Nordisk
A/S v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, 2008 WL 323611 at 2
(D.N.J. Feb. 4, 1008) (quoting L. Civ. R. 5.3, comment 2).
The party seeking to seal "has the burden of
establishing 'good cause' with respect to each
document that it seeks to seal." Id. A party
seeking to seal must support such ...