United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ELIZABETH COWAN WRIGHT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon the parties' contested
Joint Motion Regarding Continued Sealing (Dkt. No. 63)
pursuant to Local Rule 5.6(d) concerning documents filed
under seal (Dkt. Nos. 38, 41, 45, 48, and 50). For the
reasons stated below, the Court concludes that Docket Numbers
38, 41, 45, 48, and 50 should be unsealed.
case arises out of Plaintiff's assertion that Defendant
illegally placed a levy on her wages in violation of the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et
seq. The parties disagree as to whether Docket Numbers
38, 41, 45, 48, and 50 should be unsealed. These documents
were filed under seal with the Court in conjunction with the
parties' respective Motions for Summary Judgement. (Dkt.
Nos. 31, 36.) The sealed documents at issue include: a
memorandum of law and reply filed by Plaintiff (Dkt. Nos. 38,
50); a sealed exhibit filed Plaintiff consisting of excerpts
from the deposition transcript of Defendant's Rule
30(b)(6) deponent Amy Goltz (Dkt. No. 41), which was marked
“CONFIDENTIAL” under the operative Protective
Order (Dkt. No. 19); a reply in support of summary judgment
filed by Defendant (Dkt. No. 45); and a sealed exhibit filed
by Defendant also consisting of excerpts from the same
confidential Rule 30(b)(6) deposition transcript involving
Goltz (Dkt. No. 48).
argues as part of the motion for continued sealing that the
information contained in Docket Numbers 38, 41, 45, 48, and
50 “relates to or discuss Defendant's financial
documents or proprietary policy and procedures. This
information is protected under the Court's adopted
Protective Order and if disclosed the Defendant is at risk of
competitive disadvantage.” (Dkt. No. 63.) Plaintiff
countered that the pleadings at issue “do not contain
any confidential or proprietary information.”
(Id.) Neither party explains their respective
position beyond their conclusory assertions nor do they rely
on any legal authority. See Baxter Int'l, Inc. v.
Abbott Labs., 297 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 2002) (finding
that the proponent of sealing must “analyze in detail,
document by document, the propriety of secrecy, providing
reasons and legal citations”); see also Shamblin v.
Obama for Am., No. 8:13-CV-2428-T-33TBM, 2014 WL
6065752, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 12, 2014) (“The
statement that ‘this proprietary and confidential
information, if publicly disclosed, would provide competitors
of the Defendant and Defendant's vendors an unfair
advantage' without more is not enough to override the
common law and First Amendment rights of the public to review
court documents.”); Local Rule 5.6(d)(2)(A)(ii).
mere fact that a document has been designated as confidential
under a protective order is not a valid basis to keep the
document under seal indefinitely for the purposes of Local
Rule 5.6(d), which governs motions for further consideration
of sealing in this District. American courts “recognize
a general right to inspect and copy public records and
documents, including judicial records and documents.”
Nixon v. Warner Comms., Inc., 435 U.S. 589,
597 (1978); see also Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of
Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119-20 (2d Cir. 2006)
(“[D]ocuments used by parties moving for, or opposing,
summary judgment should not remain under seal absent the most
compelling reasons.”) (citation omitted); Brown v.
Advantage Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.2d 1013, 1016 (11th
Cir. 1992) (“Once a matter is brought before a court
for resolution, it is no longer solely the parties' case,
but is also the public's case.”). As the Eighth
Circuit has held:
There is a common-law right of access to judicial records. .
. . This right of access bolsters public confidence in the
judicial system by allowing citizens to evaluate the
reasonableness and fairness of judicial proceedings, and
“to keep a watchful eye on the workings of public
agencies.” It also provides a measure of accountability
to the public at large, which pays for the courts.
IDT Corp. v. eBay, 709 F.3d 1220, 1222 (8th Cir.
right of access is not absolute, but requires a weighing of
competing interests.'” Feinwachs v. Minn. Hosp.
Ass'n, No. 11-cv-8 (JRT/SER), 2018 WL 882808, at *3
(D. Minn. Feb. 13, 2018) (quoting Webster Groves Sch.
Dist. v. Pulitzer Pub. Co., 898 F.2d 1371, 1376 (8th
Cir. 1990)). According to the Eighth Circuit:
Where the common-law right of access is implicated, the court
must consider the degree to which sealing a judicial record
would interfere with the interests served by the common-law
right of access and balance that interference against the
salutary interests served by maintaining confidentiality of
the information sought to be sealed. . . . “[T]he
decision as to access is one best left to the sound
discretion of the trial court . . . in light of the relevant
facts and circumstances of the particular case.”
IDT Corp., 709 F.3d at 1223 (citations omitted);
see also, Feinwachs, 2018 WL 882808, at *3 (citation
Local Rule 5.6 does not explicitly set forth a standard of
proof which parties must meet in order for the Court to
change the prior sealing determinations made in the context
of a joint motion regarding continued sealing under Local
Rule 5.6(d)(2), the 2017 Advisory Committee Note to Rule 5.6
provides guidance similar to the Eighth Circuit in IDT
Corp., supra, by requiring this Court to
balance the interests of Defendant in maintaining the
confidentiality of the documents at issue with the
public's right of access:
[P]arties have been filing too much information under seal in
civil cases . . . . As a general matter, the public does not
have a right of access to information exchanged in discovery;
thus, protective orders are often quite broad, covering
entire documents or sets of documents produced during
discovery, even when most or all of the contents are not
particularly sensitive. But the public does have a qualified
right of access to information that is filed with the court.
Even if such information is covered by a protective
order, that information should not be kept ...