United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
LOCAL ACCESS, LLC and BLITZ TELECOM CONSULTING, LLC, Plaintiffs,
PEERLESS NETWORK, INC., Defendant.
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case comes before the Court without oral argument on
Plaintiffs' Unopposed Motion to Seal Plaintiffs'
Verified Motion to Hold Defendant in Contempt of Sealed Order
Enforcing Settlement Agreement (Doc. 368), and Peerless
Network, Inc.'s Motion for Leave to File under Seal (Doc.
March of this year, the parties informed the Court that this
case had been settled. Relying upon this advice, the Court
administratively closed the case “subject to the right
of any party to file, within 60 days, a stipulated final
order or judgment or, on good cause shown, to move the Court
to re-open the case for further proceedings.” (Doc.
subsequently motioned the Court to reopen the case or in the
alternative, dismiss it with prejudice (Doc. 338). As
grounds, Defendant alleged that the parties did not have a
settlement because they disagreed about the terms
(Id.). Plaintiffs responded with a motion to enforce
the settlement agreement (Doc. 340). Then, Defendant filed a
motion for sanctions in which it accused Plaintiffs of
fabricating evidence for use at trial (Doc. 343).
Court sealed some of the information contained in the
parties' motions because it constitutes settlement
negotiations that were intended to be confidential; and some
of the information consists of confidential and proprietary
business plans, pricing information and technical
capabilities which, if made public, could injure
Defendant's business operations and relationships with
its customers (Doc. 345). For the same reasons, the Court
also granted the parties' motions to seal certain
information contained in their responses to the foregoing
motions (Docs. 352, 360).
August 10, 2017, the Court entered a sealed Order granting
Defendant's motion to reopen the case; denying
Defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice; and
granting Plaintiffs' motion to enforce the settlement
(Doc. 364). In the same Order, the Court dismissed this case
with prejudice, while retaining jurisdiction to enforce the
parties' settlement agreement (Id.). Defendant
has appealed the Order granting Plaintiffs' motion to
enforce the settlement (Doc. 365).
pending are Plaintiffs' Verified Motion to Hold Defendant
in Contempt of Sealed Order Enforcing Settlement Agreement
(Doc. 367), and Defendant's Corrected Motion to Clarify
and Stay Enforcement of the Court's August 10, 2017 Order
Pending Appeal (Doc. 372). The parties seek leave of Court to
file some of the contents of these motions under seal (Docs.
368, 373). Both motions are unopposed.
filing of documents under seal is disfavored by the
Court.” Graphic Packaging Int'l, Inc. v. C.W.
Zumbiel Co., No. 3:10-cv-891-J-JBT, 2010 WL 6790538, at
*1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 28, 2010). While the parties to a lawsuit
“have protectable privacy interests in confidential
information disclosed through discovery, ” once the
information becomes a judicial record or public document, the
public has a common-law right to inspect and copy the
information. In re Alexander Grant & Co. Litig.,
820 F.2d 352, 355 (11th Cir. 1987). “Once a matter is
brought before a court for resolution, it is no longer solely
the parties' case, but also the public's case.”
Brown v. Advantage Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.2d 1013,
(11th Cir. 1992); Patent Asset Licensing, LLC v.
Wideopenwest Fin., LLC, No. 3:15-cv-743-J-32MCR, 2016 WL
2991058, at *1 (M.D. Fla. May 24, 2016). “[I]t is the
rights of the public, an absent third party, which are
preserved by prohibiting closure of public records, unless
unusual circumstances exist.” Wilson v. Am. Motors
Corp., 759 F.2d 1568, 1570 (11th Cir. 1985).
filed in connection with any substantive pretrial motion,
unrelated to discovery, is subject to the common law right of
access.” Romero v. Drummond Co., Inc., 480
F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th Cir. 2007). “A substantive
pretrial motion is ‘[a] motion that is presented to the
court to invoke its powers or affect its decisions, whether
or not characterized as dispositive, [and it] is subject to
the public right of access.” Id. at 1246
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
judge is the primary representative of the public interest in
the judicial process and is duty-bound therefore to review
any request to seal the record (or part of it). He may not
rubber stamp a stipulation to seal the record.”
Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS,
Inc., 184 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1363 (N.D.Ga. Feb. 15, 2002)
(quoting Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton v.
Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999)).
“The right to inspect and copy is not absolute,
however, and a judge's exercise of discretion in deciding
whether to release judicial records should be informed by a
sensitive appreciation of the circumstances that led to the
production of the particular document in question.”
Chemence Med. Prods., Inc. v. Medline Indus., No.
1:13-CV-500-TWT, 2015 WL 149984, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 12,
public's right of access may be overcome by a showing of
“good cause” sufficient for the granting of a
protective order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c) (“The
court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party
or person form annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue
burden or expense …”). “'Good
cause' is a well established legal phrase. Although
difficult to define in absolute terms, it generally signifies
a sound basis or legitimate need to take judicial
action.” In re Alexander Grant, 820 F.2d at
Eleventh Circuit has “superimposed a somewhat more
demanding balancing or interests approach to the” good
cause requirement in Rule 26(c). Farnsworth v. Procter
& Gamble Co., 758 F.2d 1545, 1547 (11th Cir. 1985).
This means that before making its decision, the court has a
duty to balance the public's right of access against the
party's interest in confidentiality. “In balancing
the public interest in accessing court documents against a
party's interest in keeping the information confidential,
courts consider, among other facts, whether allowing access
would impair court functions or harm legitimate privacy
interests, the degree of and likelihood of injury if made
public, the reliability of the information, whether there
will be an opportunity to respond to the ...