United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
LYNNE M. GIBSON, Plaintiff,
JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP., Defendant.
B. SMITH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
employment discrimination case comes before the Court without
a hearing on Defendant JetBlue Airways Corporation's
Renewed Unopposed Motion to File Materials Under Seal (Doc.
70). Defendant seeks leave of Court to file under seal, for
summary judgment purposes, a portion of its People Department
Recommendation and Findings concerning the analysis of data
to determine why Defendant was losing students during
training (Id., ¶ 5). Defendant represents that
this information is “highly sensitive proprietary and
competitive business information [that] is of little
significance to the public” (Id., ¶ 5).
Plaintiff does not oppose the motion (Id., at 4).
filing of documents under seal is disfavored by the
Court.” Graphic Packaging International, Inc. v.
C.W. Zumbiel Co., No. 3:10-cv-891-J-JBT, 2010 WL
6790538, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 28, 2010). “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 Engineering,
Inc., 960 F.2d 1013, (11th Cir. 1992). 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. Litigation, 820 F.2d 352, 355
(11th Cir. 1987). “The 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., No. CIV.1:96-cv-3052-WCO, 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)).
“[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. American Motors Corp., 759 F.2d 1568, 1570
(11th Cir. 1985).
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 & Co.
Litigation, 820 F.2d at 356. Factors the Court may
consider in determining the existence of good cause include:
“(1) the severity and the likelihood of the perceived
harm; (2) the precision with which the order is drawn; (3)
the availability of a less onerous alternative; and (4) the
duration of the order.” Id. (quoting
Kleiner v. First National Bank of Atlanta, 751 F.2d
1193, 1205 (11th Cir. 1985).
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.
Court accepts Defendant's representations concerning the
highly sensitive nature of the information in question. The
Court is also persuaded that the public has little interest
in the information and that there is no less onerous
alternative to sealing. This case is between private parties,
and the information to be sealed does not concern the
operations of government or public officials. On this record
the Court finds that Defendant has shown good cause to seal
the information and, that Defendant's interest in
protecting the information outweighs the public's right
of access. Accordingly, the motion is
GRANTED. Defendant shall file a redacted
version of the People Department Recommendation and Findings
on the public docket and deliver the unredacted document to
the Clerk for filing UNDER SEAL. The
unredacted document shall remain under seal for one year from
the entry of this Order. Any party may motion the Court to
extend the seal at any time before it expires.