A reinsurance agreement and attachments filed in a court proceeding and purportedly containing “all manner of confidential and proprietary business information,” including “product design,” “service standards,” “pricing,” and “acquisition expenses and claim administration expenses,” were made public after the filing party failed to demonstrate “good cause” for keeping the documents secret.
“The court’s operation is of ‘utmost public concern.'” “Its business is ‘presumptively public.'” Furthermore, the public has both a limited First Amendment right of access to civil trial proceedings and a separate common law right to inspect and copy judicial records. While material filed with discovery motions is not subject to the common law right of access, material filed in conjunction with pretrial motions that require judicial resolution is subject to the common law right. In addition, the existence of a protective order does not automatically override the public’s right of access. Rather, the party seeking to maintain secrecy of the documents “must establish good cause for continued protection under Rule 26.” “An agreed or stipulated protective order merely postpones the need to litigate good cause document by document.”
To maintain confidentiality, a movant must “make a particularized showing of ‘good cause’ and a specific demonstration of fact by affidavit or testimony of a witness with personal knowledge, of the specific harm that would result from disclosure or loss of confidentiality; generalities, conclusory statements, and unsupported contentions do not suffice.” In this case, the movant “provided no specific explanations, evidence, or declarations that demonstrate why the exhibits should be sealed.” Instead, the movant only made “general, unsupported contentions” that the documents were confidential and that their disclosure would be harmful. Because there was no “particularized showing of good cause,” the court denied the motion to uphold confidentiality.
Theriot v. Nw. Mut. Life Ins. Co., No. 2:18-cv-00688 (M.D. Ala. May 17, 2019).