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Doe v. Blackfoot School District# 55

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 28, 2014

JOHN DOE, an individual formerly under 18 Years of Age, Plaintiff,
BLACKFOOT SCHOOL DISTRICT #55, a political subdivision, et al., Defendants.


TED STEWART, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Bingham County, J. Scott Andrew, Randy W. Smith, and Jared Ricks (the "County Defendants") and City of Blackfoot, R. David Moore, Kurt Asmus, Paul Newbold, and Justin Dance (the "City Defendants").[1] Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order.


In the fall of 2010, the Blackfoot City Police Department began investigating incidents of hazing, including an activity called "shushing." The record contains various descriptions of shushing. Generally, the activity involves a group of individuals holding someone down while one or more individuals touch the victim's genitals and/or insert their finger into the victim's anus through the victim's clothing.

Detectives Newbold and Dance were the officers primarily involved in the investigation of these incidents. During interviews with these officers, various individuals identified Plaintiff, among others, as having been involved in shushing. Specifically, two victims-B.H. and S.C.- stated that they were restrained while another individual or individuals touched them inappropriately. B.H. stated that Plaintiff participated in an incident where B.H. was held down and fingers were inserted into his anus through his clothing. Both B.H. and S.C. identified Plaintiff as being among the group of individuals involved in the hazing, though they could not identify the specific role Plaintiff played.

On December 1, 2010, Defendant Newbold submitted an Officer Probable Cause Statement. In the Officer Probable Cause Statement, Defendant Newbold stated that Plaintiff "assisted to force down a juvenile male and restrict his freedom while himself and other adult males inserted their fingers, through the clothing into the juvenile males anal opening. Insertion was made into the anal opening."[2]

On or about December 2, 2010, Defendant Ricks, a Deputy County Prosecutor, filed a Juvenile Petition in the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, alleging the following offenses had been committed: battery (three counts), false imprisonment (three counts), and principal to a felony (forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object).[3] Prior to trial, it became clear that the victims could not specifically identify Plaintiff as one of the individuals who had penetrated their rectums. Therefore, the single felony count of sexual penetration was dismissed. An Amended Juvenile Petition was filed, charging two counts of battery.

Trial commenced on the battery charges on February 23, 2011. At the end of the trial, the juvenile court judge stated that there was sufficient evidence to find that the two victims were attacked, but that he could not determine who had perpetrated the attack. Because Plaintiff was not charged as a principal, the charges against him were dismissed.

Plaintiff filed this action on December 3, 2012. Plaintiff asserts claims for malicious prosecution; making false public statements; supervisory and municipal liability; negligent supervision, hiring, training, and discipline; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff had asserted claims for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, but has since conceded these claims.[4] Defendants seek summary judgment on all claims.


The Court first considers Plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order. Through his Motion, Plaintiff seeks to have certain documents sealed. Plaintiff argues that by filing certain documents publicly, Defendants have revealed his true identity and, because he is using the pseudonym John Doe, these documents should be removed from public view. Though he has not moved for such relief, the purpose of Plaintiff's Motion is to allow him to use the pseudonym "John Doe."

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) states that "[t]he title of the complaint must name all the parties." Similarly, Rule 17(a) provides that "[a]n action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest." However, "many federal courts, including the Ninth Circuit, have permitted parties to proceed anonymously when special circumstances justify secrecy."[5]

In the Ninth Circuit, parties are permitted to proceed anonymously only "in the unusual case' when nondisclosure of the party's identity is necessary... to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.'"[6] "[A] party may preserve his or her anonymity in judicial proceedings in special circumstances when the party's need for anonymity outweighs prejudice to the opposing party and the public's interest in knowing the party's identity."[7] In making this determination, the Court must balance the following factors: (1) the severity of the threatened harm, (2) the reasonableness of the anonymous party's fears, (3) the anonymous party's vulnerability to such retaliation, (4) the prejudice to the opposing party, and (5) the public interest.[8]

Considering these factors, the Court finds that the need for anonymity does not outweigh the prejudice to Defendants and the public's interest in knowing Plaintiff's identity. First, there does not appear to be any threatened harm if Plaintiff were to reveal his identity. While Plaintiff argues that he has suffered mental anguish and embarrassment in the community as a result of the charges that provide the basis for this lawsuit, Plaintiff undermines his argument in support of anonymity by arguing that those in the community know that he was accused. Plaintiff further states that the juvenile case is not sealed and the record of the charges against him can be accessed by searching his name. Additionally, Plaintiff has voluntarily disclosed his identity to Defendants. Plaintiff has failed to point to anything suggesting that Defendants-who are well aware of his identity-or others, have retaliated against him.[9]

Second, and for substantially the same reasons, Plaintiff's fears are not reasonable. The relevant determination under this factor is whether Plaintiff was threatened and whether "a reasonable person would believe that the threat might actually be carried out."[10] There is no evidence to show that Plaintiff was threatened.

Third, there is no evidence that Plaintiff is particularly vulnerable to retaliation. While Plaintiff was a juvenile when most of the events at issue occurred, he is now an adult. Further, it appears that Plaintiff has moved away from the community where the events and underlying prosecution took place.

Fourth, there is no real prejudice to Defendants here because Plaintiff has revealed his identity to them. However, the fact that Plaintiff has made a selective disclosure of his identity militates against Plaintiff's request to use a pseudonym.

Finally, the public has an interest in Plaintiff's identity being revealed. As the Ninth Circuit has explained, a plaintiff's "use of fictitious names runs afoul of the public's common law right of access to judicial proceedings."[11]

Based on the review of these factors, the Court will not permit Plaintiff to proceed using a pseudonym. As Plaintiff has pointed to no other reason to seal the records at issue, Plaintiff's Motion for Protective Order will be denied.


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[12] In considering whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party in the face of all the evidence presented.[13] The Court is required to construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[14]



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