United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case comes before the Court without oral argument on
Plaintiff's Unopposed Motion to Seal Pursuant to Court
Order its Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to
Compel Local Access for Discovery and for Sanctions and Some
Exhibits Thereto (Doc. 61). Defendant does not oppose the
motion (Id., at 6).
seeking to file information under seal in this district must
first comply with Local Rule 1.09. The rule requires the
moving party to file a motion in which it identifies and
describes each item proposed for sealing. Id. The
motion must include: (1) the reason that filing each item is
necessary; (2) the reason that sealing each item is
necessary; (3) the reason that a means other than sealing is
unavailable or unsatisfactory to preserve the interest
advanced by the movant in support of the seal; (4) the
proposed duration of the seal; and (5) a memorandum of legal
authority supporting the seal. Id. Plaintiffs'
motion satisfies these requirements.
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
cause is established by showing that disclosure will cause
“a clearly defined and serious injury.” Pansy
v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772, 786 (3d Cir.
1994). See also Kamakana v. City and County of
Honlulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1181 (9th Cir. 2006) (party
seeking to seal dispositive motion papers “must
‘articulate compelling reasons supported by specific
factual findings.'” (quoting Foltz v. State
Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir.
2003) (alterations in original)). Indeed, the Eleventh
Circuit has recognized that “[a] party's privacy or
proprietary interest in information sometimes overcomes the
interest of the public in accessing the information.”
Romero, 480 F.3d at 1246.
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 information, whether
the information concerns public officials or public concerns,
and the availability of a less onerous alternative to sealing
the documents.” Romero, 480 F.3d at 1246
asks the Court to seal information which Defendant has
designated “confidential, ” and settlement
discussions the parties intended to remain confidential (Doc.
61 at 2-3). The issue presented is not new. See Local
Access, LLC and Blitz Telecom Consulting, LLC v. Peerless
Network, Inc., Case No. 6:14-cv-399-Orl-40TBS. As this
Court has already found, a party's interest in the
privacy of its financial records and the terms of
confidential agreements may outweigh the public's right
of access. Graphic Packaging Int', Inc. v. C.W.
Zumbiel Co., No. 3:10-cv-891-J-JBT, 2010 WL 6790538, at
*1 (M.D. Fla. Oct 28, 2010); Medai, Inc. v. Quantros,
Inc., No. 6:12-cv-840-Orl-37GJK, 2012 WL 2512007, at
*2-3 (M.D. Fla. June 29, 2012). So, for example, when a party
seeks to enforce a confidential settlement agreement, some
courts have permitted the filing of the agreement under seal
to preserve confidentiality. See, e.g. Webimax,
LLC v. Johnson, No. 3:11-cv-993-J-34JBT, 2013 WL 497843,
n.2 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 11, 2013), report and recommendation
adopted, 2013 WL 489134 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 8, 2013);
Berman v. Kafka, No. 3:10-cv-718-J-32MCR, 2012 WL
12903790, n.2 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 6, 2012), report and
recommendation adopted, 2012 WL 12903791 (M.D. Fla. Apr.
24, 2012), aff'd, 518 F. App'x 783 (11th
conducting the balancing test, the Court finds that the
parties' interests in the privacy of the information
sought to be filed under seal outweighs the public right of
access. Accordingly, the motion is GRANTED.
Plaintiff shall file its unredacted response to
Defendant's motion to compel UNDER SEAL.
A redacted version of the response shall be filed on the
proposes that the information be held under seal for a period
of five years (Id., at 3). The Court's local
rules generally provide for sealing for up to one year which
is renewable on motion made before the expiration of the
seal. M.D. Fla. 1.09(c). However, this situation involves a
confidential settlement that will, as matters now stand, be
in effect for five years (Id., at 3). Therefore, the
information to be sealed pursuant to this Order shall remain
sealed until the earlier of: (1) an order unsealing the
information; or (2) November 7, 2022. Prior to the expiration
of the seal, any party may file a motion to extend the seal.