Smith et al v. Westminster Management, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Chief Judge James K. Bredar on 1/11/2018. (bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
TENAE SMITH, et al.,
WESTMINSTER MANAGEMENT, LLC,
CIVIL NO. JKB-17-3282
Plaintiffs filed a six-count complaint against Defendants in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City on September 27, 2017. (Compl., ECF No. 2). Defendant Dutch Village, LLC
removed the case to this Court on November 7, 2017 (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1) and filed a
Removal Statement the same day (ECF No. 6). On November 20, 2017, Defendants moved for
leave to file a supplemental removal statement under seal (“Defendants’ Motion”) (ECF No. 21).
On December 1, 2017, a group of three media organizations, the Baltimore Sun, ProPublica, and
the Washington Post, filed a motion to intervene for the purpose of seeking an extension of time
to intervene in opposition to Defendants’ Motion. (See ECF No. 25.) On December 4, 2017,
Plaintiffs themselves filed a response in opposition to Defendants’ Motion (ECF No. 28). On
December 8, 2017, the same media organizations, as well as WMAR-TV and the Associated
Press (collectively, the “Media Intervenors”), moved to intervene for the purpose of opposing
Defendants’ Motion (ECF No. 31). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part
the Media Intervenors’ motion to intervene for the purpose of opposing the Defendants’ Motion
(ECF No. 31), and therefore will deny as moot the Media Intervenors motion to intervene for the
purpose of requesting additional time to intervene for the purpose of opposing Defendants’
Motion (ECF No. 25).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) a court must permit nonparties to intervene
if they “claim an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action.”
When a party moves to seal records, “representatives of the press and general public must be
given an opportunity to be heard on the question of their exclusion.” Globe Newspaper Co. v.
Superior Court of Norfolk Cty., 457 U.S. 596, 609 n.25 (1982) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Fourth Circuit has held that “the press has standing to intervene in actions in
which it is not otherwise a party to seek review of a district court’s order sealing documents and
court records.” Rosenfeld v. Montgomery Cty. Public Schs., 25 F. App’x 123, 131 (4th Cir.
2001) (citing, inter alia, Stone v. Univ. of Maryland Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180-81 (4th
Cir. 1988)). The local rules in this District explicitly provide time for “interested parties” to
object to motions to seal documents. See Local Rule 105.11 (D. Md. 2016). Nonparty media
intervenors have been permitted to intervene to seek access to records even when parties to the
case have also opposed the sealing of records. See, e.g., Virginia Dep’t of State Police v.
Washington Post, 386 F.3d 567, 572 (“[Plaintiff] . . . argued that under the First Amendment and
the common law the public has a right of access to the . . . documents.
organizations (“Media Appellees”) subsequently moved to intervene and to unseal all documents
that had been filed under seal.”); Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 252 (4th
The Media Intervenors have standing to move to intervene for the purpose of seeking
access to records that would otherwise be public, but for the Defendants’ Motion. Defendants
oppose the Media Intervenors’ motion to intervene primarily on the ground that the Media
Intervenors appear to assert “the same argument already advanced by Plaintiffs.” (Opp’n to Mot.
Intervene Mem. Supp. 2, ECF No. 40-1.) The Defendants’ argument appears to be that because
the Plaintiffs in this case oppose Defendants’ Motion, the Media Intervenors’ intervention in this
matter should only be permitted if they oppose Defendants’ Motion for distinct reasons. That
argument is unsupported by precedent in this District or Circuit.
Defendants’ citation to Commonwealth of Virginia v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 542 F.2d
214 (4th Cir. 1976) is misplaced. That case did not concern intervenors whose interest was in
public access to information under the First Amendment or the common law. Although the
Media Intervenors here may indeed make similar arguments as do the Plaintiffs in regard to their
opposition to Defendants’ Motion, the interests of the Media Intervenors and the Plaintiffs are
The Plaintiffs will necessarily have access to the document in issue (i.e. the
supplemental removal statement) because they are parties to the litigation; the Media
Intervenors, if that document were sealed, would not.
The Media Intervenors have a right to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
24(a). See Globe Newspaper Co., 457 U.S. at 609 n.25. Therefore, the Media Intervenors’
motion to intervene for the purpose of opposing Defendants’ Motion will be granted in part. The
Court will grant this motion only in part because in substance the Media Intervenors’ motion to
intervene is in part a motion to intervene and in part a substantive opposition to the Defendants’
Motion. The Court will grant this motion in part to allow the Media Intervenors to intervene, but
will not, at this time, issue a final decision on the disposition of the Defendants’ Motion.
Having granted the Media Intervenors’ motion to intervene, the Court now finds that the
Defendants’ Motion is ripe for review. That is, the Plaintiffs have responded in opposition (ECF
No. 28) and the Defendants have replied (ECF No. 39), and, in the Court’s eyes, the Media
Intervenors have moved to oppose the Defendants’ Motion (ECF No. 31, in part), Defendants
have responded in opposition to that motion (ECF No. 40) and the Media Intervenors have
replied (ECF No. 41). To the extent that the Media Intervenors or the Defendants disagree with
the Court’s characterization of these filings, they may inform the Court of the nature of that
disagreement, including any requests for additional briefing, within one week of the issuance of
the order accompanying this memorandum.
DATED this 11th day of January, 2018.
BY THE COURT:
James K. Bredar
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