Lonker v. Lyden et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 86 Motion to Strike Certain Confidentiality Designations and to Unseal Document. The motion to strike is granted and the motion to unseal is denied without prejudice. Signed by District Judge John W. Lungstrum on 03/31/2017. (ses)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF KANSAS
Case No. 16-2097-JWL
in his individual capacity and
in his official capacity as Sumner County Sheriff,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Plaintiff Brooklyn Lonker asserts claims against defendant Sheriff Darren Chambers
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that former Deputy Sheriff Jared Lyden violated her rights
under the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution after she was detained
and handcuffed in a patrol car following a traffic stop. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant
knew that Jared Lyden frequently violated the constitutional rights of citizens during routine
traffic stops and that, by continuing to employ Jared Lyden despite this knowledge, defendant
deliberately disregarded the risk that Jared Lyden posed to citizens’ constitutional rights.
Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims. This matter is
presently before the court on plaintiff’s motion to strike certain confidentiality designations and
to unseal a document that defendant filed under seal in connection with his motion. As will be
explained, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Motion to Strike Confidentiality Designations
During the discovery process, defendant produced certain documents under a
confidentiality designation pursuant to the protective order entered in the case. Plaintiff seeks to
strike that designation with respect to 3 specific documents on the grounds that she intends to
submit those documents in response to defendant’s motion for summary judgment and to
reference those documents freely in her responsive brief. She expressly opposes the option of
filing those documents or her brief under seal to protect the purported confidentiality of the
documents. Because defendant has failed to articulate any persuasive reason to maintain the
confidentiality of the documents, the court grants the motion to strike.
The protective order entered in this case sets forth a specific procedure to challenge a
confidentiality designation. Pursuant to the procedure described in the order, “the burden of
proving the necessity of a confidentiality designation remains with the party asserting
confidentiality.” See Doc. 30 ¶ 8. Plaintiff challenges the designation with respect to the
September 14, 2014 Notice of Internal Investigation concerning Jared Lyden (Bates SCSD
000142); Jared Lyden’s September 23, 2014 resignation letter (Bates SCSD 000143); and a
November 17, 2014 KS-CPOST Notice of Termination or Status Change concerning Jared
Lyden (Bates SCSD 000035-000037). Each of these documents was maintained by the Sheriff’s
Department in Jared Lyden’s personnel file.
Plaintiff moves to strike the confidentiality
designations on the grounds that the documents are not truly confidential and because defendant,
in any event, has waived any interest in confidentiality by referencing the substance of the
documents in his summary judgment motion or in deposition testimony submitted with the
motion. In response, defendant contends only that the documents are “irrelevant” and that the
public has no interest in viewing irrelevant documents from the personnel file of a non-party.1
Defendant has not met his burden of proving the necessity of a confidentiality
designation. On their face, the documents appear at least arguably relevant to plaintiff’s claim
that defendant knew or should have known that Jared Lyden unreasonably detained citizens
during routine traffic stops and used coercion to obtain consent to search. While defendant
highlights that the documents are dated months after the stop at issue in this case, the court
cannot conclude on that basis alone that the documents have “no connection” to plaintiff’s claim
against defendant Chambers. Indeed, the documents may support an inference, when viewed in
the context of other evidence, that defendant had knowledge of Jared Lyden’s conduct at the
time of the stop in this case; that defendant failed to train and/or supervise Jared Lyden; and/or
that defendant was deliberately indifferent to the risk allegedly posed by Jared Lyden.
Finally, the court notes that there is nothing in the substance of the KS-CPOST notice or
Jared Lyden’s resignation letter that could conceivably be construed as embarrassing to Jared
Lyden. While the Notification of Internal Investigation arguably contains statements that might
be embarrassing to Mr. Lyden, the substance of that Notification was discussed in defendant’s
deposition (including specific reference to “strong indications that [Jared Lyden] violated the
rights of citizens within this county” during vehicle stops), which defendant himself submitted
with his motion for summary judgment. Any argument regarding confidentiality with respect to
this document, then, has been waived.
Defendant also suggests that the KS-CPOST notice is confidential by statute. Nothing in the
statue cited by defendant supports that argument. See K.S.A. § 74-5611a.
Motion to Unseal March 2012 Mental Health Report (Doc. 85)
In his motion for summary judgment, defendant Chambers states that he arranged for
Jared Lyden to consult with the Sumner Mental Health Center in March 2012 because the
county did not have an employee assistance program and Mr. Lyden indicated that he was
having “problems in his life at home, off the job.” Defendant Chambers further states in his
motion that he received and read the report from the consultation and he sets forth in his motion
the initial and final job-related recommendations from that consultation. The actual report from
the consultation, however, was filed under seal with permission from the court. Plaintiff now
seeks to unseal the report.
According to plaintiff, the report should be unsealed because
defendant has “quoted liberally” from it such that he has waived any claim of confidentiality;
because the report is not protected by the physician/patient privilege; and because the report
contains information that will be “critical” to the court’s ruling on summary judgment such that
the public has a compelling interest in access to it. For the reasons set forth below, this aspect of
plaintiff’s motion is denied subject to refiling if appropriate after the resolution of the motion for
Courts, including the Tenth Circuit, have long recognized a common-law right of access
to judicial records. Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir.2007) (citations omitted).
The right of access to judicial records is not absolute and the presumption of access “can be
rebutted if countervailing interests heavily outweigh the public interests in access.” Id. The
party seeking to overcome the presumption bears the burden of showing some significant
interest that outweighs the presumption. Id. Without question, documents submitted by parties
for the court’s consideration in connection with a summary judgment motion constitute “judicial
records” to which a strong presumption of public access attaches. Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of
Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110 122–23 (2d Cir. 2006) (collecting cases and suggesting that the
presumption of access is at its highest in connection with summary judgment motions).
The four-page Sumner Mental Health Center consultation report unquestionably contains
information of a highly private nature concerning Jared Lyden. Much of that information
(particularly the detailed portion labelled “Relevant Background History”), at least at this
juncture, appears to have no bearing on Mr. Lyden’s work as a Deputy in the Sheriff’s
Department or plaintiff’s claims in this case.2 Moreover, the rationale underlying the public’s
right to access is to allow the public an opportunity to assess the correctness of the judge’s
decision. Id. at 123. It may be that the court concludes that plaintiff survives summary
judgment regardless of the document, in which case the need for public access to the document
would be largely nonexistent. For these reasons, the court believes that the appropriate approach
is to maintain the document under seal and then re-evaluate that decision—at plaintiff’s
request—after the ruling on the summary judgment motion. Stated another way, the court
concludes at this juncture that defendant’s articulated interest in confidentiality outweighs the
public’s right of access to the sealed mental health report. Plaintiff, of course, remains to free to
rely on the document in her response to the motion for summary judgment. She may discuss
those portions to which defendant Chambers has waived confidentiality (the “Initial
Recommendations” and “Final Recommendations” portions of the report) without redacting
While defendant references certain portions of the report, he does not reference any
information in the Background History portion of the report. The court, then, cannot conclude
that defendant has waived a claim of confidentiality with respect to that portion of the report.
those portions of her argument. To the extent, however, that she relies on any other portion of
the report, she must redact that portion of her brief.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT plaintiff’s motion to strike
certain confidentiality designations and to unseal document 85 (doc. 86) is granted in part and
denied in part. The motion to strike is granted and the motion to unseal is denied without
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 31st day of March, 2017, at Kansas City, Kansas.
s/ John W. Lungstrum
John W. Lungstrum
United States District Judge
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