Smith v. Corrections Corporation of America, LLC
ORDER granting 39 Motion to Seal Exhibits F, G, and I to its Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Debra M. Brown on 2/17/17. (tab)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
KIMMY COLEMAN SMITH
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF
AMERICA, LLC a/k/a Tallahatchie
On February 2, 2017, Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) filed a motion for
leave to file under seal certain exhibits to its motion for summary judgment. Doc. #39. The
motion will be granted.
On January 8, 2016, Kimmy Coleman Smith, a former Unit Manager at CCA’s
Tallahatchie Correctional Facility, filed a complaint in this Court against CCA. Doc. #1. In her
complaint, Smith alleges claims for race discrimination, violation of the Family Medical Leave
Act, and retaliation. Id.
On December 9, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden entered a Stipulated
Protective Order Governing Confidential Materials. Doc. #35. Of relevance here, the protective
order allows parties to mark documents as confidential and provides:
In the event a party seeks to file Confidential Documents with the Court, or to file
with the Court pleadings or other papers referring to Confidential information
derived therefrom, the filing party will seek the Court’s leave to file the document,
pleading, or other paper under seal as permitted by the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and Local Rule 79.
Id. at 6.
On January 26, 2017, CCA filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #37. The
memorandum accompanying the motion for summary judgment relies on three documents
(Exhibits F, G, and I) which have been marked as confidential. Doc. #38 at 6 n.1. On February
2, 2017, CCA filed a motion seeking leave to file the three exhibits under seal, with a supporting
memorandum brief. Doc. #39; Doc. #40. Smith did not respond to the motion and the time
within which she could have done so has expired.
Rule 79 of the Uniform Local Rules provides that no document may be filed under seal
without a court order. L.U. Civ. R. 79(b). In this regard, Rule 79 instructs that “[n]o document
may be sealed merely by stipulation of the parties.” Id. at 79(d). 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.” Id. at
79(d), (b). In considering whether to grant a motion to seal, there is a “presumption in favor of the
public's access to judicial records,” and 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, 848–49 (5th Cir. 1993). Where, as here, 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)
(“[T]he weight to be given the presumption of access must be governed by the role of the material
at issue in the exercise of Article III judicial power and the resultant value of such information to
those monitoring the federal courts.”); Chicago Tribune Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263
F.3d 1304, 1312 & n.11 (11th Cir. 2001) (“The better rule is that material filed with discovery
motions is not subject to the common-law right of access, whereas discovery material filed in
connection with pretrial motions that require judicial resolution of the merits is subject to the
common-law right ....”).
CCA seeks leave to seal three exhibits to its summary judgment motion – Exhibit F (“a
confidential investigative report prepared by CCA’s in-house investigator”), Exhibit G (“a
compilation of incident statements prepared by CCA employees regarding the Plaintiff in this
case”), and Exhibit I (“a confidential investigative report … regarding specific complaints made
about Plaintiff”). Doc. #40 at 2–3. CCA argues that each of these documents contain statements
and information provided by inmates and/or employees of CCA with an expectation of confidence.
Id. at 3. CCA contends that the Court should seal these documents “to protect these people and
their expectation of confidentiality ….” Id. at 3–4.
Courts have found sufficient grounds to seal a company’s internal investigation where the
report “contains confidential findings … that are normally unavailable to the public.” United
States ex rel. Carter v. Haliburton Co., No. 1:10-cv-864, 2011 WL 2077799, at *3 (E.D. Va. May
24, 2011). In such a case, “[t]he public’s interest in access is outweighed … by the [company’s]
interest in preserving confidentiality.”
Furthermore, the interest in preserving
confidentiality is particularly strong when the internal investigation includes statements provided
by inmates and prison employees. See generally Butler v. Harrington, No. 13-cv-1270, 2014 WL
90724, at *7 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 9, 2014) (“Concerns for institutional security and the safety of
individual inmates dictate the need for prison officials to protect the confidentiality of a prisoner
who provides information used in a disciplinary proceeding against another inmate.”).
Upon consideration, the Court concludes that the public’s interest in access is outweighed
by the countervailing interest in protecting the identities of prison employees and inmates who
provided statements on internal prison matters with an expectation of confidentiality.
Accordingly, CCA’s motion to seal  is GRANTED. CCA may file under seal Exhibits F, G,
and I, to its motion for summary judgment.
SO ORDERED, this 17th day of February, 2017.
/s/ Debra M. Brown
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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