Clements v. HSBC Auto Finance, Inc.
ORDER: denying 115 MOTION to Seal or, Alternatively, to Redact Portions of the 108 Trial Transcript. Signed by Judge Irene C. Berger on 5/20/2011. (cc: attys; any unrepresented party) (slr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
LAMONT CLEMENTS and
VERA CLEMENTS, his wife,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:09-cv-00086
HSBC AUTO FINANCE, INC.,
The Court has reviewed Defendant HSBC Auto Finance Inc.’s Motion to Seal or,
Alternatively, Redact Portions of the Trial Transcript [Docket 115], filed May 4, 2011. Plaintiffs
have not responded.
Local Rule 26.4 provides that the rule requiring public inspection of court documents may
be abrogated only in exceptional circumstances. L.R. Civ. P. 26.4(b)(1). A party moving to seal
a court document must set forth:
(A) the reasons why sealing is necessary, including the reasons why alternatives to
sealing, such as redaction, are inadequate;
(B) the requested duration of the proposed seal; and
(C) a discussion of the propriety of sealing, giving due regard to the parameters of
the common law and First Amendment rights of access as interpreted by the Supreme
Court and our Court of Appeals.
L.R. Civ. P. 26.4(b)(2). Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a court to issue
a protective order requiring that trade secrets or other confidential information not be revealed. F.R.
Civ. P. 26(c)(1)(G). The public has a right to inspect court records. However, a court may seal
certain documents if competing interests outweigh the public’s right to this access. See In re Knight
Publishing Co., 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir.1984).
Defendant requests that the transcript be sealed (presumably indefinitely) in keeping with
the parties’ agreed protective order and the Court’s ruling during the bench trial of this case on
February 28, 2011, which sealed the trial exhibits containing confidential business information and
trade secrets. It asserts that throughout the trial reference was made to those protected exhibits and
that its privacy interests in keeping the protected material confidential outweigh the public’s interest
in disclosing the transcripts. (Mot. ¶ 8.) Defendant seeks, in the alternative, a court order redacting
portions of the transcript, but states that “since the references in the transcript to the protected
material are ubiquitous, there is not an alternative to appropriately protect HSBC’s Auto’s interests.”
(Mot. ¶ 8.) Defendant sets forth the portions of the transcript that it asserts mentions, discusses or
quotes the protected material, which total roughly fifty pages of the 209 page transcript. Most of
these excerpts discuss only the general strategy employed by Defendant to contact customers. Some
of the excerpts discuss the frequency of calls made to a single customer.
Although Defendant’s motion is unopposed, the Court finds that the Defendant has failed
to discuss the “propriety of sealing, giving due regard to...the common law and First Amendment
rights of access...” and, specifically, given the substance of the transcript references, has failed to
show exceptional circumstances or any competing interests that outweigh the public’s right to
access. Wherefore, the Court ORDERS that Defendant’s Motion to Seal or, Alternatively, Redact
Portions of the Trial Transcript [Docket 115] be DENIED..
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to counsel of record and any
May 20, 2011
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