WARTLUFT et al v. THE MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL AND SCHOOL TRUST et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER - IT IS ORDERED THAT the names of the individuals published in the district courts summary judgment opinion Dr. Benjamin Herr, Mic Stewart, Heather Teter, Dr. Jeannette Morales-Brandt, Dr. Lidija Petrovic-Dovat, and Dr. John Gavazz i be unredacted from the documents we have unsealed pursuant to our March 6, 2020 Orders (Docs. 349 , 350 ). As stated in our prior orders regarding these documents, counsel shall confer and tender copies of stipulated, redacted records to the clerk for release on the public docket within 30 days from the date of this order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson on December 3, 2020. (kjn)
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 1 of 6
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JULIE ELLEN WARTLUFT, et al.,
THE MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL
AND SCHOOL TRUST, et al.,
Civil No. 1:16-CV-2145
(Chief Judge Jones)
(Magistrate Judge Carlson)
In 2016, the plaintiffs brought this suit on behalf of their deceased daughter,
a former student of the Milton Hershey School (“MHS”), alleging that their
daughter’s suicide in 2013 was a result of MHS’s unwritten policy of expelling
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), this court, as a United States Magistrate
Judge, is authorized to rule upon motions by intervenors to unseal certain court
records. Parson v. Farley, 352 F. Supp. 3d 1141, 1145 (N.D. Okla. 2018), aff'd, No.
16-CV-423-JED-JFJ, 2018 WL 6333562 (N.D. Okla. Nov. 27, 2018). We note for
the parties that under 28 U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1)(A) the parties may seek review of this
order by filing a motion to reconsider with the district court since: AA judge of the
[district] court may reconsider any . . . matter [decided under this subparagraph]
where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or
contrary to law.@ 28 U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1)(A).
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 2 of 6
students who had more than two mental health hospitalizations. This suit was
ultimately dismissed when the district court granted the defendants’ motion for
summary judgment on March 18, 2020. (Doc. 352).
Throughout the course of the litigation, The Philadelphia Inquirer, PBC (“the
Inquirer”), moved to intervene and sought to have a host of records in this case
unsealed, and these motions were referred to the undersigned. We granted the
Inquirer’s motions to intervene and unsealed a number of records, subject to limited
redactions to protect third-party information. (Docs. 349, 350). Following the filing
of the district court’s summary judgment opinion, the Inquirer requested that this
third-party information be unredacted, as the district court published the names of
these individuals in its summary judgment opinion. This request was briefed by the
parties and is now ripe for resolution. (Docs. 357, 358). For the reasons set forth
below, we will grant the Inquirer’s request and order that these previously disclosed
names be unredacted from the previously unsealed records.
In our March 6, 2020 Memorandum Opinions (Docs. 349, 350), we unsealed
all but one document requested by the Inquirer, and these records were unsealed
subject only to limited redactions to protect the identifying information of third party
individuals contained in these records. This information covered the names,
addresses, and family information related to these MHS personnel and medical
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 3 of 6
providers. We first found that these records were “judicial records” subject to a
presumptive right of public access. See In re Cendant Corp., 260 F.3d 183, 192-93
(3d Cir. 2001); see also In re Avandia Marketing, Sales Practices and Prods. Liability
Litigation, 924 F.3d 662, 372 (3d Cir. 2019); Leucadia, Inc. v. Applied Extrusion
Technologies, Inc., 998 F.2d 157, 164 (3d Cir. 1993). Accordingly, we unsealed
these documents, subject to the redaction of the nonparties’ identifying information,
recognizing that these nonparties had important privacy interests at stake. While we
ordered these names and identifying information redacted, we recognized that “it
may be possible through further investigation to tentatively identify some of these
third parties by reference to employment histories and job titles.” (Doc. 349, at 19).
The Inquirer now asserts that these privacy interests no longer exist, or are
greatly diminished, as the district court’s summary judgment opinion published the
names of and identified five of these individuals. We are inclined to agree. As one
court in this circuit reasoned, “[a]fter material appears unsealed on a court’s docket,
and therefore in the public domain, there are little, if any, plausible justifications for
subsequently sealing the same material.” In re Application of Storag Etzel GmbH,
2020 WL 2949742, at *29 (D. Del. Mar. 25, 2020). Further, the court noted:
These principles have particular force in the modern world of electronic
filing and judicial dockets openly accessible to the public on
government and private databases. Gambale v. Deutsche Bank AG, 377
F.3d 133, 144 (2d Cir. 2004) (“But however confidential it may have
been beforehand, subsequent to publication it was confidential no
longer. It now resides on the highly accessible databases.”). See also
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 4 of 6
American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi v. Fordice, 969 F. Supp.
403, 411 (S.D. Miss. 1994) (“Regarding documents which are in the
public domain, if a file contains only material which has already been
made public, the Court finds that such files should remain completely
open and unredacted.”); aff'd sub nom. American Civil Liberties Union
of Mississippi, Inc. v. King, 84 F.3d 784 (5th Cir. 1996); Performance
Chevrolet, Inc. v. ADP Dealer Services, Inc., No. 2:14-CV-2738 TLN
AC, 2015 WL 13855488, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2015) (“Defendant
has identified no rule, statute, case or other authority requiring that the
document it filed must be sealed or redacted after the fact. To the
contrary, the cases addressing this issue have denied requests to seal
documents where they were already publicly filed, or where the
information contained in the documents is already in the public
domain.”) citing Level 3 Communications, LLC v. Limelight
Networks, Inc., 611 F. Supp. 2d 572 (E.D. Va. 2009); Joint Equity
Committee of Investors of Real Estate Partners, Inc. v. Coldwell Banker
Real Estate Corp., 2012 WL 234396, at *2 (C.D. Cal. 2012); Cooke v.
Town of Colorado City, Ariz., 2013 WL 3155411, at *2 (D. Ariz.
2013); Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., 2014 WL 722489,
at *1 (N.D. Cal.2014).
Id.; see also Three Brothers Supermarket, Inc. v. United States, 2020 WL 5749942,
at *6 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 25, 2020) (quoting Avandia, 988 F.2d at 672) (finding that
names of third parties, without any other identifying information, are not the “kind
of information that courts will protect”).
Here, the information that the Inquirer seeks to have unredacted—the names
of these individuals—has already been placed unredacted on the public docket since
March of 2020 in the district court’s summary judgment opinion. (See Doc. 352).
Accordingly, redacting these names from the records we have unsealed will not “unring that bell.” In re Application of Storag Etzel GmbH, 2020 WL 2949742, at *29.
Therefore, we will order that the names of these individuals—Dr. Benjamin Herr,
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 5 of 6
Mic Stewart, Heather Teter, Dr. Jeannette Morales-Brandt, and Dr. Lidija PetrovicDovat—be unredacted from the documents we have unsealed according to our
March 6, 2020 orders. (Docs. 349, 350). While we are ordering that the names of
these individuals be unredacted, any other identifying information of these
individuals will remain redacted.
Finally, the Inquirer requests that the name of the plaintiffs’ proposed expert,
Dr. John Gavazzi, be unredacted, as we have ordered the expert report unredacted
and Dr. Gavazzi is named in the district court’s opinion. For the reasons set forth
above, we will grant this request, and to the extent Dr. Gavazzi’s name has been
redacted in the documents we have unsealed, his name should similarly be
unredacted from those documents.
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED THAT the names
of the individuals published in the district court’s summary judgment opinion—Dr.
Benjamin Herr, Mic Stewart, Heather Teter, Dr. Jeannette Morales-Brandt, Dr.
Lidija Petrovic-Dovat, and Dr. John Gavazzi—be unredacted from the documents
we have unsealed pursuant to our March 6, 2020 Orders (Docs. 349, 350). As stated
in our prior orders regarding these documents, counsel shall confer and tender copies
of stipulated, redacted records to the clerk for release on the public docket within 30
days from the date of this order.
Case 1:16-cv-02145-JEJ-MCC Document 362 Filed 12/03/20 Page 6 of 6
So ordered this 3d day of December 2020.
/s/ Martin C. Carlson
Martin C. Carlson
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?