Burke v. Wilcher et al
ORDER denying 24 Motion to Seal Document. Paytel must file, within 7 days of the date this Order is served, an unredacted corporate disclosure statement meeting the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 7.1(a)(1). Signed by Magistrate Judge G. R. Smith on 9/14/17. (jlm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
COREY QUINN BURKE,
SHERIFF JOHN T. WILCHER,
Defendant Paytel Communications, Inc., erroneously named as
“Mr. Paytel” in the Complaint,1 asks to file its Disclosure Statement
under seal. Doc. 24. Paytel contends that, because it is a “closely held”
corporation and plaintiff a pro se prisoner, its interest “in privacy with
respect to individual officers and directors of the company” is greater
than the public’s interest in access to those names. Id. at 2.
Under Local Rule 79.7, “[a]ny person desiring to have any matter
placed under seal shall present a motion setting forth the grounds why
the matter presented should not be available for public inspection. . . .
The burden rests upon the moving party to justify . . . sealing. . . .
The Clerk is DIRECTED to update the caption accordingly and all subsequent
filings shall so conform.
[Movant] must rebut the presumption of the openness derived from the
First Amendment by showing that closure is essential to preserve some
higher interest 2 and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” United
States v. Bradley, 2007 WL 1703232 at * 3 (S.D. Ga. June 11, 2007)
(footnote added). “[G]eneral assertions,” however, “are not enough. The
party wishing to seal a court record must be specific because permanent
sealing (sought here) must be narrow.” Id.
Paytel’s interest is that, as a “closely held corporation,” it
“desire[s] privacy with respect to individual officers and directors of the
Doc. 24 at 2.
And, Paytel is concerned that plaintiff is
unrepresented and an inmate. Id. That is all. A “desire for privacy”
and a pro se plaintiff, however, cannot outweigh3 the public interest in
disclosure of companies with whom a federal judge may have a conflict of
Defining what constitutes a “higher interest” furthered by sealing proves difficult,
but one court has characterized it as disclosure that would not promote the values
associated with public scrutiny of the judicial process. See United States v. Sattar,
471 F. Supp. 2d 385, 388 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).
Recall that parties wishing to seal filings “must rebut the presumption of the
openness derived from the First Amendment by showing that closure is essential to
preserve some higher interest and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” S.D.
Ga. L.R. 7.1.1 (emphasis added). Paytel’s interests thus must “outweigh” or
“exceed” the public’s.
Put differently, Paytel describes a general interest in non-
disclosure of its officers and directors and an unsubstantiated concern
with plaintiff’s self-representation, but fails to explain the weight of its
interest vis-à-vis the public’s.
That’s not enough. Every party wishing to seal a filing cares deeply
about preventing disclosure and many describe their interest in detail.
But only those whose interest is more important than the public’s
interest in disclosure receive sealing consideration.
Paytel has not
shown that its interest rises to that level. Its motion to seal (doc. 24)
therefore is DENIED. Paytel must file, within 7 days of the date this
Order is served, an unredacted corporate disclosure statement meeting
the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 7.1(a)(1).
Corporate disclosure statements exist “to assist district judges in determining
whether they might have a financial interest in a corporate entity that is related to a
corporate party in a case before them and therefore requires their recusal.”
5 WRIGHT & MILLER, FED. PRAC. & PROC. CIV. § 1197 (3d ed. 2010). Recusal issues
involve “[t]he operations of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges,” and thus
are “matters of utmost public concern.” United States v. Bradley, 2007 WL 1703232
at * 1 (S.D. Ga. June 11, 2007) (quoting Romero v. Drummond Co., 480 F.3d 1234,
1245 (11th Cir. 2007)).
SO ORDERED, this
14th day of September, 2017.
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