Joy v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 7/28/2016. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. DKC 14-2447
UNITED OF OMAHA LIFE INSURANCE
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this case is
(ECF No. 16).
hearing being deemed necessary.
The court now rules, no
Local Rule 105.6.
following reasons, the motion to seal will be granted.
Plaintiff Gerald Joy filed a complaint on July 31, 2014
against United of Omaha Life Insurance Company alleging he was
denied short term disability benefits for which he believes he
(ECF No. 1).
On September 18, 2014, the parties
filed a stipulation of dismissal subject to conditions.
The parties agreed that Plaintiff would submit, and
Defendant would review, a long term disability application.
Plaintiff, and after Plaintiff exhausted all his administrative
consent to the reopening of this case.
On May 2, 2016, the parties filed a consent motion to reopen
and amend which was granted.
(ECF No. 8).
Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint (ECF No. 11) and Defendant thereafter filed an
answer (ECF No. 12).
On June 8, 2016, the court convened a telephone conference
The parties reported that they intended to file
Defendant would be moving to seal it.
At that time Plaintiff
consented to the sealing of the administrative record.
parties also agreed to participate in mediation and agreed to a
briefing schedule with respect to summary judgment motions.
anticipated, Defendant filed the instant consent motion to seal
on July 7 (ECF No. 16) and a paper copy of the administrative
record (consisting of two banker boxes) on July 11, 2016.
“The right of public access to documents or materials filed
in a district court derives from two independent sources:
common law and the First Amendment.”
Va. Dep’t of State Police
v. Wash. Post, 386 F.3d 567, 575 (4th Cir. 2004).
law presumes a right of the public to inspect and copy ‘all
judicial records and documents,’” id. at 575 (quoting Stone v.
Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988)),
interests heavily outweigh the public interests in access.”
(quoting Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249,
253 (4th Cir. 1988)); see also Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc.,
435 U.S. 589, 597–99 (1978).
Under this common law balancing
analysis, “[t]he party seeking to overcome the presumption bears
the burden of showing some significant interest that outweighs
Rushford, 846 F.2d at 253.
restrict access to judicial records or documents is a matter of
a district court’s ‘supervisory power,’ and it is one ‘best left
to the sound discretion of the [district] court.’”
Va. Dep’t of
State Police, 386 F.3d at 575 (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598–
99) (second alteration in original).
In addition to the public’s common law right of access, the
First Amendment provides a “more rigorous” right of access for
certain “judicial records and documents.”
Va. Dep’t of State
Police, 386 F.3d at 575-76; see also In re Application of the
Where the First Amendment does apply, access may be denied “only
on the basis of a compelling governmental interest, and only if
Stone, 855 F.2d at 180.
“For a right of access to a document to exist under either
the First Amendment or the common law, the document must be a
‘judicial record’” in the first instance.
In re Application,
authored or created documents are “judicial records,” as are
adjudicative process, or adjudicate substantive rights.”
(citing Rushford, 846 F.2d at 252; In re Policy Mgt. Sys. Corp.,
67 F.3d 296 (4th Cir. 1995) (unpublished table decision)).
documents filed in connection with a summary judgment motion in
a civil case.”
Va. Dep’t of State Police, 386 F.3d at 578
(quoting Rushford, 846 F.3d at 253) (alteration in original).
The Fourth Circuit also recently reminded us that:
It is well settled that the public and press
have a qualified right of access to judicial
documents and records filed in civil and
Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555,
580 n. 17, 100 S.Ct. 2814, 65 L.Ed.2d 973
Nixon v. Warner Communications,
Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55
L.Ed.2d 570 (1978); Media Gen. Operations,
Inc. v. Buchanan, 417 F.3d 424, 428 (4th
Cir. 2005). The right of public access
springs from the First Amendment and the
common-law tradition that court proceedings
are presumptively open to public scrutiny.
Va. Dep't of State Police v. Wash. Post, 386
distinction between the rights of access
afforded by the common law and the First
Amendment is significant, because the common
law does not afford as much substantive
protection to the interests of the press and
the public as does the First Amendment.” In
re United States for an Order Pursuant to 18
U.S.C. Section 2703, 707 F.3d 283, 290 (4th
Cir. 2013) (quoting Va. Dep't of State
Police, 386 F.3d at 575) (internal quotation
marks omitted). The common-law presumptive
right of access extends to all judicial
documents and records, and the presumption
can be rebutted only by showing that
“countervailing interests heavily outweigh
the public interests in access.” Rushford,
846 F.2d at 253. By contrast, the First
Amendment secures a right of access “only to
particular judicial records and documents,”
Stone, 855 F.2d at 180, and, when it
applies, access may be restricted only if
closure is “necessitated by a compelling
government interest” and the denial of
access is “narrowly tailored to serve that
interest,” In re Wash. Post Co., 807 F.2d
383, 390 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Press–
Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 464 U.S. 501,
510, 104 S.Ct. 819, 78 L.Ed.2d 629 (1984)
(internal quotation marks omitted)).
Doe v. Public Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 265-66 (4th Cir. 2014).
presented with a request to seal certain documents, it must
determine two things:
(1) whether the documents in question are
judicial records to which the common law presumption of access
applies; and (2) whether the documents are also protected by the
reasons supported by specific factual representations to justify
the sealing and (b) an explanation why alternatives to sealing
would not provide sufficient protection.”
In the instant motion, Defendant states that the record
contain sensitive and private information of the Plaintiff such
as his date of birth and social security number.
consideration, any alternative to sealing the record such as
redacting identifying and other sensitive personal information
to protect Plaintiff’s privacy interest would be burdensome and
so extensive that it would render meaningless anything revealed.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s consent motion to
seal will be granted.
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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