United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THOMAS W. THRASH, Jr., District Judge.
This is a breach of contract action. It is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion Permitting Filing Under Seal [Doc. 148], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Deposition Transcripts and Certain Exhibits Thereto [Doc. 151-1], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Portions of Its Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue to be Tried, Brief in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Appendix Thereto [Doc. 152-1], the Plaintiff's Motion Permitting Filing Under Seal [Doc. 166], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Portions of Its Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Statement of Additional Facts in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, and the Appendix Thereto [Doc. 175], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Deposition Transcripts and Certain Exhibits Thereto [Doc. 176], the Plaintiff's Motion Permitting Filing Under Seal [Doc. 188], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Selected Portions of Filings of November 10, 2014 [Doc. 195], the Defendant's Motion to Seal Portions of Its Motion to Exclude Opinions and Testimony of Dr. Seamas Grant [Doc. 209], and the Plaintiff's Motion Permitting Filing Under Seal [Doc. 212].
This case involves breach of contract claims regarding a contract for the sale of a surgical glue between the Plaintiff, Chemence Medical Products, Inc., and the Defendant Medline Industries, Inc. Both parties have filed motions to seal numerous documents. The parties claim that the documents contain trade secrets and other confidential information requiring protection. Neither party has filed any opposition to any of the motions to seal, but neither has consented to the pending motions.
II. Legal Standard
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has made it clear that court records are presumptively public. "The common-law right of access to judicial proceedings, an essential component of our system of justice, is instrumental in securing the integrity of the process." The right to inspect and copy is not absolute, however, and a judge's exercise of discretion in deciding whether to release judicial records should be informed by a sensitive appreciation of the circumstances that led to the production of the particular document in question. The common law right of access requires a balancing of competing interests. However, where the trial court conceals the record of an entire case, making no distinction between those documents that are sensitive or privileged and those that are not, it must be shown that the denial of access "is necessitated by a compelling governmental interest, and is narrowly tailored to that interest."
Rule 26(c) authorizes the trial court to issue a protective order "requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way..." upon a showing of good cause. The right of access is not absolute and does not apply to discovery materials. However, a motion that is presented to the court to invoke its powers or affect its decisions, whether or not characterized as dispositive, is subject to the public right of access. This common law right of access may be overcome by a showing of good cause.
In balancing the public interest in accessing court documents against a party's interest in keeping the information confidential, court consider, among other factors, whether allowing access would impair court functions or harm legitimate privacy interests, the degree of and likelihood of an injury if made public, the reliability of the information, whether there will be an opportunity to respond to the information, whether the information concerns public officials or public concerns, and the availability of a less onerous alternative to sealing the documents.
Stereotyped and conclusory statements concerning the need for confidentiality do not establish good cause to seal court documents.
A. Chemence's First Motion to Seal [Docs. 148 and 166]
The Plaintiff moves to seal its memorandum of law in support of its motion for partial summary judgment, Exhibits 1, 3-11, 13, and 21-22 to that memorandum, and the deposition excerpts of Alex Liberman, Jonathan Primer, Debashish Chakravathy, Charles David Greenberg, Bridget Donovan, and Seamas Grant. Chemence filed the same motion twice as two separate documents.
The Court grants the motion to seal Chemence's memorandum of law in support of its motion for partial summary judgment, only to the extent that the document contains product specifications. Additionally, the Court grants the motion to seal Exhibit 1, given that it has already been filed under seal as Exhibit 1 to Medline's amended counterclaim. Exhibit 7 should be sealed because it contains confidential business information. Exhibits 3, 8, 10, 11, and 13 will be sealed because they contain product specifications. The motion to seal Exhibits 4-6, 9, 21, and 22 is denied. Although Chemence has labeled the documents confidential, it has not stated any specific reason for a need to seal the exhibits. Furthermore, this Court finds no information in the exhibits that presents good cause to seal.
As to the deposition excerpts, this Court finds cause to seal some, but not all of the testimony. The motion to seal the excerpts from the Primer and Donovan Depositions is denied. The motion to seal excerpts of the Chakravathy Deposition is granted because the excerpts contain product specifications. Because the Greenberg and Liberman Depositions contain discussion regarding confidential business transactions, the Court grants Chemence's motion to seal the excerpts. The Grant ...