Ward et al v. Rawlake et al
ORDER denying without prejudice 78 Motion to File Document Under Seal. Signed by Magistrate Judge Kimberly A. Jolson on 5/15/2017. (ew)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
JOHN H. WARD, et al.,
Civil Action 2:14-cv-848
Judge Michael H. Watson
Magistrate Judge Jolson
TODD RAWLAKE, et al.,
This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Leave to File Document Under Seal filed
by Jim S. Hall & Associates, LLC and Jim S. Hall (the “Movants”). (Doc. 78). For the reasons
set forth below, the Motion is DENIED without prejudice.
A district court may enter a protective order during discovery on a mere showing of
“good cause.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1). “[V]ery different considerations apply” when a party
seeks to seal documents “[a]t the adjudication stage,” which applies “when the parties place
material in the court record.” Shane Grp., Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich., 825 F.3d 299,
No. 15-1544, 2016 WL 3163073, at *3 (6th Cir. June 7, 2016) (quotation omitted). “Unlike
information merely exchanged between the parties, ‘[t]he public has a strong interest in obtaining
the information contained in the court record.’” Shane, 2016 WL 3163073, at *3 (quoting Brown
& Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710 F.2d 1165, 1180 (6th Cir. 1983)). For this reason,
the moving party owns a “heavy” burden of overcoming a “‘strong presumption in favor of
openness’ as to court records.” Id. (quoting Brown & Williamson, 710 F.2d at 1179); see id.
(“Only the most compelling reasons can justify non-disclosure of judicial records.” (quotation
omitted)). “[T]he seal itself must be narrowly tailored to serve that reason,” which requires the
moving party to “analyze in detail, document by document, the propriety of secrecy, providing
reasons and legal citations.” Id. (quotation omitted). Similarly, the court “that chooses to seal
court records must set forth specific findings and conclusions which justify nondisclosure.” Id.
at *4 (quotation omitted).
The Sixth Circuit’s recent decision in Shane Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of
Michigan provides guidance for the Motion to Seal. There, “[n]umerous court filings” were filed
under seal on the ground that they “contained materials designated as confidential under [a joint]
protective order.” Graiser v. Visionworks of Am., Inc., No. 1:15-CV-2306, 2016 WL 3597718,
at *1 (N.D. Ohio July 5, 2016); see Shane, 2016 WL 3163073, at *4. The Sixth Circuit held that
such reasoning was “inadequate” to seal the documents at issue because it was “brief” and
“perfunctory.” Shane, 2016 WL 3163073, at *4.
Here too, the Movants offer a brief and perfunctory explanation of why a seal is
necessary. Similar to Shane, the sole justification for seeking to file the documents under seal is
that they will rely on material terms of the Settlement Agreement, which is subject to a
Protective Order. (Doc. 78 at 1–2). As Mr. Rawlake has argued in opposing the Motion to Seal,
the Movants fail to demonstrate why reference to confidential settlement terms or communications is
necessary in the motion to strike. (Doc. 82 at 2). Furthermore, the Movants have not addressed
whether the seal itself could be narrowly tailored by, for example, filing redacted documents on
the public docket. Thus, the Movants do not meet the heavy burden to justify sealing the entirety
of multiple documents at the adjudication stage. Shane, 2016 WL 3163073, at *4–5 (noting that
“specificity is essential”).
For the reasons stated, the Motion to Seal (Doc. 78) is DENIED without prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: May 15, 2017
/s/ Kimberly A. Jolson
KIMBERLY A. JOLSON
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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