In re: NC Swine Farm Nuisance Litigation
ORDER granting 515 Motion to Seal 514 PROPOSED SEALED Exhibit. Signed by Senior Judge W. Earl Britt on 9/21/2018. (Herrmann, L.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
Master Case No. 5:15-CV-00013-BR
IN RE: NC SWINE FARM
THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO:
McKiver v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-180-BR
McGowan v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-182-BR
Anderson v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-183-BR
Gillis v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-185-BR
Blanks v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-219-BR
Blow v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-232-BR
Artis v. Murphy-Brown LLC, No. 7:14-CV-237-BR
This matter is before the court on defendant Murphy-Brown LLC’s motion to seal an
exhibit filed in support of the joint motion for continuance and stay of discovery. (DE # 515.)
Plaintiffs consent to the motion. (DE # 516.)
Prior to sealing documents, a district court must first give the public adequate notice and
a reasonable opportunity to be heard. In re Knight Publ’g Co., 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir.
1984). The court must also determine the source of the public’s right to access the documents.
Stone v. Univ. of Md., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988). Public access to documents arises
from two sources: the First Amendment and the common law. Doe v. Pub. Citizen, 749 F.3d
246, 265 (4th Cir. 2014). Those sources “provide different levels of protection.” Stone, 855
F.2d at 180. The common law presumes access to all judicial records while the First
Amendment extends to particular documents, namely, in civil cases, those the court considers in
connection with summary judgment motions and court opinions ruling on such motions. Doe,
749 F.3d at 267; 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.’” United States v. Appelbaum, 707 F.3d
283, 290 (4th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). “Judicial records” include not only orders filed by
the court but also documents filed with the court that “play a role in the adjudicative process . . .
.” Id. However, “the mere filing of a document with the court does not render the document
judicial.” In re Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp., Nos. 94-2254, 94-2341, 1995 WL 541623, *4 (4th Cir.
Sept. 13, 1995) (citing United States v. Amodeo, 44 F.3d 141, 145 (2d Cir. 1995)). “[A]
document becomes a judicial document when a court uses it in determining litigants’ substantive
rights. . . . [A] document must play a relevant and useful role in the adjudication process in order
for the common law right of public access to attach.” Id. (citations omitted).
Here, defendant filed its motion to seal and incorporated memorandum in support
publicly. The joint motion for continuance and stay of discovery was also filed publicly. The
response time under the local rules has expired, and no member of the public has filed an
objection to the motion to seal.
The court concludes that no public right of access attaches to the document in question.
It is a confidential agreement between the parties regarding alternative resolution of pending
cases. Although the agreement was filed in support of the joint motion to continue and stay, it
was not necessary to the court’s resolution of that motion. The motion itself sufficiently details
the reasons supporting the requested relief, and the agreement merely provides “proof” of the
parties’ representations in the motion. Furthermore, the resolution of the motion to continue and
to stay concerns scheduling, a procedural issue, and does not involve the determination of any
party’s substantive rights. Accordingly, the court finds that the agreement at issue is not a
judicial document to which a right of public access attaches.
Defendant’s motion to seal is ALLOWED.
This 21 September 2018.
W. Earl Britt
Senior U.S. District Judge
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