United States District Court, D. Hawaii
DENNIS RAYMOND ALEXIO, Beneficiary Pre-1933 Private American National Citizen of the United States, Plaintiff,
BARACK OBAMA, Trustee, President/Commander in Chief, United States of America; JACOB LEW, Trustee, Secretary of the Treasury, United States of America, Defendants.
ORDER: (1) GRANTING IFP APPLICATION; (2) DENYING PETITION TO SEAL; AND (3) DISMISSING BILL IN EQUITY WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND
J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
On December 9, 2015, Plaintiff Dennis Raymond Alexio (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed the following documents: (1) a Bill in Equity Petition for Declaratory Relief, Enforcement of Trusts, Protections and Full Accounting (“Bill in Equity”), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and naming as Defendants Barack Obama, Trustee, Commander in Chief, United States of America and Jacob Lew, Trustee, Secretary of the Treasury, United States of America (collectively, “Defendants”), (2) a Petition to Seal the Bill in Equity (“Petition to Seal”), (3) a Civil Cover Sheet for Private American National Citizens/Non-Combatants (“Civil Cover Sheet”), and (4) an Application to Proceed in District Court in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”). Doc. Nos. 1-4. The Civil Cover Sheet states that the United States Constitution is a public trust and identifies Plaintiff as the beneficiary and heir of that trust. Doc. No. 3, Civil Cover Sheet at 2. Defendants are identified as “Trustees” of the public trust, and of a private equity trust, allegedly created by the filing of Plaintiff’s birth certificate, entitled “DENNIS RAYMOND ALEXIO.” Doc. No. 1, Bill in Equity ¶¶ 6-8, 18-19. The Bill in Equity purports to provide notice of Plaintiff’s “status” as beneficiary of these trusts, and seeks (1) a declaration from this court confirming such “status, ” and (2) injunctive relief enforcing the trusts by ordering Defendants to provide an accounting of all assets and property held in trust by Defendants for Plaintiff’s benefit. Id. ¶ 24. The Petition to Seal seeks an order sealing the Bill in Equity. Doc. No. 3.
Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds these matters suitable for disposition without a hearing. For the reasons discussed below, the court GRANTS the IFP Application, DENIES the Petition to Seal, and DISMISSES the Bill in Equity without leave to amend.
A. Plaintiff’s IFP Application Is Granted
Plaintiff’s IFP Application indicates that he has no income or assets. Doc. No. 4 ¶¶ 2-5. Plaintiff also reports that he has no monthly expenses, debts or other financial obligations. Id. ¶¶ 6-8. Because Plaintiff has made the required showing under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis (i.e., without prepayment of fees), the court GRANTS Plaintiff’s IFP Application.
B. Plaintiff’s Petition to Seal is Denied
Plaintiff seeks to seal the Bill in Equity contending that it “concerns extraordinary matters” and that the “DENNIS RAYMOND ALEXIO” trust documents are “special and private, restricted and confidential, proprietary and privileged to be seen only by the Chancellor in Chambers.” Doc. No. 3, Petition at
1. Based on the “general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents, ” there is a “strong presumption” in favor or maintaining public access to judicial records that are not of a type “traditionally kept secret for important policy reasons.” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006). To overcome this strong presumption with respect to documents upon which an action is based, courts in the Ninth Circuit have applied the “compelling reasons” standard. See, e.g., Davies v. Broadcom Corp.,
___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2015 WL 5545513, at *7 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2015) (applying “compelling reasons” standard to a complaint); see also Delfino Green & Green v. Workers Compensation Solutions, LLC, 2015 WL 4235356, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 13, 2015) (“Because Plaintiff’s complaint and Defendant’s answer and counter-claim are the pleadings on which this action is based, the Court applies the ‘compelling reasons’ standard to Defendant’s motions to seal.”).
To meet this standard, the moving party “must ‘articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings’ that outweigh . . . public policies favoring disclosure.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79 (quoting Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003)). The court may not rely on hypothesis or conjecture. Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135. In determining whether the moving party has presented a sufficiently compelling reason to seal judicial records, the court considers “the public interest in understanding the judicial process and whether disclosure of the material could result in improper use of the material for scandalous or libelous purposes or infringement upon trade secrets.” Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135 (quoting Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995)); Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79.
Here, the Bill in Equity is a judicial record for which there is a “strong presumption” in favor of maintaining public access. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178. And Plaintiff has failed to present “compelling reasons” supported by factual findings that outweigh this strong presumption. For example, Plaintiff’s vague privacy concerns alone, absent identification of a legally cognizable basis for any restriction or privilege supporting sealing any portion of the Bill in Equity, are insufficient. In short, Plaintiff has utterly failed to meet his burden of “‘articulat[ing] compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings’ that outweigh . . . public policies favoring disclosure.” Accordingly, the Petition to Seal is DENIED.
C. Plaintiff’s Bill in Equity is Dismissed Without Leave ...