Bright v. Tunica County School District et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 74 Motion to Seal. Signed by District Judge Debra M. Brown on 8/29/17. (jtm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
MATTIE BRIGHT, as Guardian and next
of kin for her daughter, Jane Doe
TUNICA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT,
Before the Court in this civil rights action is Mattie Bright’s motion to seal seven exhibits
to her response to Bernard Stephen Chandler’s motion for summary judgment. Doc. #74.
On August 24, 2016, Mattie Bright filed an amended complaint on behalf of her
daughter, Jane Doe, in the Circuit Court of Tunica County, Mississippi. Doc. #2. The amended
complaint, which asserts claims under Title IX and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, names as defendants (1)
Tunica County School District; (2) Bernard Stephen Chandler, the Superintendent of the District,
in his official and individual capacities; (3) Milton Hardrict, the principal at Coahoma
Agricultural High School, in his official and individual capacities; (4) Stanley Ellis, the Assistant
Superintendent of the District and the District’s Title IX Coordinator, in his official and
individual capacities; and (5) Brittany Brown, a teacher in the District, in her official and
individual capacities. The amended complaint alleges the various defendants are liable for a
sexual assault and subsequent harassment Jane Doe suffered while a student in the District.
On April 10, 2017, Bernard Stephen Chandler filed a motion for summary judgment.
Doc. #57. After her motion for a Rule 56(d) discovery period was denied, Bright responded in
opposition to the motion. Doc. #71.
On August 28, 2017, Bright filed a motion to seal Exhibits 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 to her
response to Chandler’s motion for summary judgment, representing the motion is unopposed.
Doc. #74. The same day, Chandler, Ellis, Hardrict, and the District responded to the motion.
Motion to Seal Standard
Rule 79 of the Uniform Local Civil Rules provides that no document may be filed under
seal without a court order. L.U. Civ. R. 79(b). In this regard, Local Rule 79(d) instructs that
“[n]o document may be sealed merely by stipulation of the parties.” Though “[a] confidentiality
order or protective order entered by the court to govern discovery will not qualify as an order to
seal documents for purposes of this rule,” “[a] statute mandating or permitting the non-disclosure
of a class of documents provides sufficient authority to support an order sealing documents.”
L.U. Civ. R. 79(b), (d).
Rule 79 also directs:
Any motion to seal must be accompanied by a non-confidential supporting
memorandum, a notice that identifies the motion as a sealing motion, and a
proposed order. A party may also submit a confidential memorandum for in
camera review. The non-confidential memorandum and the proposed order must
(A) A non-confidential description of what is to be sealed;
(B) A specific request that the document or case:
(1) Be sealed from any access by the public and the litigants’ counsel;
(2) Be sealed from public access only, with CM/ECF access permitted to the
litigants’ counsel; or
(3) Be sealed only from public access in CM/ECF, but available for public
viewing at one or more terminals located within the Clerk’s office.
L.U. Civ. R. 79(e)(3).
The decision whether to order judicial records sealed is committed to the sound discretion
of the district court, which must “balance the public’s common-law right of access against the
interests favoring nondisclosure.” SEC v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d 845, 848 (5th Cir.
1993). In doing so, the court must apply a “presumption in favor of the public’s common law
right of access.” Id. at 849. Generally, where the documents sought to be sealed are exhibits to a
dispositive motion, the weight afforded to the public’s common law right of access is necessarily
greater. United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1049 (2d Cir. 1995); Chi. Tribune Co. v.
Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1312 & n.11 (11th Cir. 2001).
As an initial matter, this Court notes that Bright failed to file a memorandum in support
of her motion, choosing instead to request a waiver of the memorandum requirement. Doc. #74.
Because the documents to be sealed are currently on the docket and because Bright’s motion
contains the information which would have been included in the memorandum, the Court will
address the request on its merits.
Bright seeks to seal Exhibits 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 to her response to Chandler’s motion
for summary judgment on the grounds that the exhibits identify Doe, her mother, and/or the
circumstances of Doe’s alleged assault. Doc. #74. The defendants do not oppose the requested
relief but argue that the motion mischaracterizes one of the exhibits and improperly assumes that
a sexual assault occurred when the defendants contend that the sexual encounter was consensual.
The Court does not believe that the identity of Doe’s mother (Bright) nor the alleged
circumstances of the sexual encounter at issue in this case, facts which have been discussed
repeatedly in this action, outweigh the interest in public disclosure. Accordingly, Exhibit 4,
which Bright seeks to seal on the grounds that it identifies Bright as “Plaintiff’s mother” and
“describes incidents surrounding the aftermath of Plaintiff’s rape” will not be sealed. 1 However,
notwithstanding the defendants’ objections to the language of the motion, the Court concludes
that the interest in protecting the identity of Doe outweighs the interests favoring nondisclosure.
Accordingly, the motion to seal will be granted as to the remaining exhibits, which all identify
For the reasons above, Bright’s motion to seal  is GRANTED in Part and DENIED
in Part. The motion is GRANTED to the extent it seeks to seal Exhibits 3 [71-3], 5 [71-5], 7
[71-7], 8 [71-8], 9 [71-9], and 10 [71-10] to Bright’s response to Chandler’s motion for summary
judgment. The motion is DENIED to the extent it seeks to seal Exhibit 4 [71-4] to the response.
SO ORDERED, this 29th day of August, 2017.
/s/Debra M. Brown
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The text of Exhibit 4 tracks many of the allegations of the complaint, which is not sealed.
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