Mykins v. Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) et al
Order re: 45 MOTION for leave to Seal Document filed by the defendants. The defendants are ordered to file a supplemental brief by 11/6/2012. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 10/23/2012. Copy mailed to Rosa Mykins. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ROSA MYKINS, etc.,
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF
HUMAN RESOURCES, etc., et al.,
)CIVIL ACTION 11-0264-WS-M
This matter is before the Court on the defendants’ motion to file evidentiary
materials under seal. (Doc. 45). The motion asserts that the defendants’ exhibits
filed in support of their motion for summary judgment all constitute either records
of the Department of Human Resources (“DHR”); Juvenile Court proceedings and
files; or Probate Court records and orders, and it asserts that Alabama state law
renders all such documents confidential, such that they should be kept under seal
in this litigation.
With respect to DHR records, the defendants cite Ala. Code §§ 26-14-8,
38-2-6(8), and 38-9-6. Section 26-14-8(c) requires that “[t]he reports and records
of child abuse and neglect and related information and testimony shall be
confidential ….” Section 38-2-6(8) provides that “[a]ll case records of recipients
of, and applicants for, assistance, including, but not limited to, payments and
services, shall be considered confidential and not public writings and shall not be
subject to public use or inspection.” Section 38-9-6, which deals with protective
placement “for an adult,” Ala. Code § 38-9-6(a), provides that “[a]ny record of the
department or other agency pertaining to such a person shall not be open for public
inspection.” Id. § 38-9-6(e). Since the individual at issue is not an adult, the latter
section appears inapplicable. As to the other sections, the defendants have not
identified the exhibits or portions of exhibits, if any that implicate them and only
Exhibit 2 clearly does so. As to all other exhibits, the defendants have not
demonstrated that they should be kept under seal pursuant to these statutes.
With respect to Juvenile Court proceedings and files, the defendants cite
Ala. Code §§ 12-15-129 and 12-15-13, as well as Rule 18 of the Alabama Rules of
Juvenile Procedure. Section 12-15-129 provides that “[t]he general public shall be
excluded from delinquency, in need of supervision, or dependency hearings ….”
While some of the defendants’ exhibits appear to implicate dependency hearings,
Section 12-15-129 does not appear to address the confidentiality of records. Rule
18 permits the dissemination of certain statistical information and so is not
implicated here. Section 12-15-133 lists certain records that “shall be confidential
and shall not be released to any person, department, agency, or entity, except as
provided elsewhere in this section.” Ala. Code § 12-15-133(a). Among the listed
items are: “[j]uvenile legal files (including formal documents as petitions, notices,
motions, legal memoranda, orders, and decrees)”; and “[b]irth certificates.” Id. §
12-15-133(a)(1), (2)(h). Exhibits 1, 3-8, 9B-C, 10B-G, and 27 appear to fall
within this rule. To the extent the defendants assert that any other exhibits fall
within the provisions concerning Juvenile Court material, they have not
demonstrated this to be the case.
With respect to Probate Court proceedings, the defendants assert that
confidentiality is protected by statute, but they cite no statute in support of this
proposition. Accordingly, they have not demonstrated that the exhibits drawn
from Probate Court filings should be kept under seal.
Most of the remaining exhibits are filings in a Circuit Court proceeding.
The defendants have not addressed these exhibits or explained why they should
remain under seal. Accordingly, they have not met their burden of doing so.
The public has constitutional and common-law rights of access to materials
filed in a federal lawsuit. See generally Chicago Tribune Co. v.
Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1309 (11th Cir. 2001) (discussing
these rights and their parameters). “This right of access is not absolute [and] may
be overcome by a showing of good cause.” Romero v. Drummond Co., 480 F.3d
1234, 1245 (11th Cir. 2007); accord Chicago Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1310. On the
current record and argument, the defendants have not met this burden with respect
to many of their exhibits. Accordingly, they are ordered to file and serve, on or
before November 6, 2012, a supplemental brief thoroughly addressing, with
citation to relevant legal authority and analysis thereof, their position that all 261
pages of their 27 exhibits should remain under seal.1
DONE and ORDERED this 23rd day of October, 2012.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The defendants are to avoid general citations to lengthy code provisions, like
those they inserted in their principal brief. Citations are to be precise and are to include
quotations of the relevant material.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?