Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Kight

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

March 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
BENNETT L. KIGHT, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Bennett L. Kight's (“Defendant”) Motion to File Under Seal [56] (“February 14, 2017, Motion to Seal”), Unopposed Motion to File Medical Records Under Seal [72] (“June 29, 2017, Motion to Seal”), Motion to File Exhibit A Under Seal [109] (“January 16, 2018, Motion to Seal”), and Motion to Seal Certain Competency Hearing Exhibits [115] (“January 29, 2018, Motion to Seal”) (collectively, the “Pending Motions to Seal”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Over the course of these criminal proceedings, Defendant has filed numerous motions to seal certain medical records and associated documents. Two of those motions were granted while Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker was overseeing the pre-trial proceedings of this case. The first, filed on January 23, 2017, was Defendant's Agreed Motion to File Under Seal [49] (“January 23, 2017, Consent Motion to Seal”) seeking to seal the medical records of Dr. Angela Ashley's August 13, 2016, and November 15, 2016, evaluations of Defendant at Grady Neurology Clinic. In it, Defendant explained that Dr. Ashley's evaluations discussed Defendant's “confidential and highly sensitive medical and mental health history.” ([49.1]. at 2). Defendant stated: “The privacy and confidentiality concerns of Defendant outweigh the public's interest in accessing this sensitive information.” (Id.). On January 25, 2017, Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker granted the January 23, 2017, Consent Motion to Seal. ([51]).

         The second, filed on February 24, 2017, was Defendant's Unopposed Motion to File Under Seal [60] (“February 24, 2017, Motion to Seal”) seeking to seal additional, voluminous “medical records (and summaries of those records) documenting Defendant's first and second hematomas, mental health evaluations, dementia, and aphasia[, ]” including Dr. Jason King's June 2016 neuropsychological evaluation report. ([60] at 2). Upon further review, the Court discovered that the sealed exhibits include hundreds of pages of non-medical transactional documents and email correspondence regarding the Glen Arden Property. ([60.3] at 86-226). Defendant cited “confidential and sensitive medical and mental health history and medications” as the grounds for sealing. (Id.). On February 27, 2017, Magistrate Judge Walker granted the February 24, 2017, Motion to Seal. ([61]).

         There are four motions to seal pending before the Court-two to which the Government has not filed a response. The first, filed on June 29, 2017, is Defendant's Unopposed Motion to File Medical Records Under Seal [72] (“June 29, 2017, Motion to Seal”). Defendant seeks to seal certain “medical records documenting Defendant's hematomas, dementia, aphasia, medications, and other medical and mental health issues.” ([72] at 1). The second, filed on January 16, 2018, is Defendant's Motion to File Exhibit A Under Seal [109] (“January 16, 2018, Motion to Seal”). Defendant seeks to seal “medical and neuropsychological information documenting Defendant's Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, medications, and other medical and mental health conditions, ” including a December 12, 2017, evaluation report from Dr. King. ([109] at 1).

         The pending motions to which the Government objects include the February 14, 2017, Motion to Seal and the January 29, 2018, Motion to Seal. Defendant's February 14, 2017, Motion to Seal seeks to seal (1) medical records documenting a December 22, 2016, falling incident resulting in an acute left-sided subdural hematoma and (2) a generic “Work/School/Sports Excuse” form from Grady Hospital Emergency Department dated February 6, 2017, explaining that Defendant was seen and treated in the emergency department on February 6, 2017, and that “[h]e is unable to return to work/school/sports until a minimum of 24 hours.” ([57]; [57.1]). On February 21, 2017, the Government filed its Response in Opposition to Motion to Seal [58] (“Response to February 14, 2017, Motion to Seal”). The Government first argues that Defendant should not be able to seal this medical information because he disclosed it on the public record in his January 23, 2017, Response in Opposition to the Government's Motion to Disqualify Defense Counsel [48] (“Response to the Government's Motion to Disqualify”), and, given his public claims, sealing is not necessary to protect Defendant's privacy interests. ([58] at 3). The Government states:

Defendant claims on the public record that he fell in December 2016, suffering a hematoma and broken ribs, and that he had a seizure on February 6, 2017, for which he went to the emergency room. Defendant also publicly claims that his ‘dementia' has ‘now progressed' into ‘aphasia, ' and that his ‘altered mental state' and ‘delirium' preclude him from assisting his counsel.

(Id. at 3). Referring to the January 23, 2017, Consent Motion to Seal, the Government also explains that, “[b]ecause health records often warrant sealing, the Government previously agreed with Defendant to seal a medical record in this case.” (Id. at 9). The Government argues, however, that Defendant “went on to make public claims about his mental condition based on that seal record.” (Id.). The Government asserts that, “[n]ow that [it] has seen the records at issue and how Defendant uses them, . . . the Government opposes sealing these records.” (Id. at 9-10).

         Defendant's January 29, 2018, Motion to Seal seeks to seal a number of exhibits that were admitted and discussed at Defendant's competency hearing held on January 18-19, 2018. ([115]). According to Defendant, the exhibits contain “medical and neuropsychological information documenting Defendant's Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, medications, and other medical and mental health conditions.” ([115.1] at 1). Defendant contends that the records discuss confidential and sensitive medical and mental health history and medications. (Id. at 2). At least some of the records include sealed filings from Fulton County Probate Court guardianship/conservatorship proceedings. Defendant further argues that the “public release of these documents would harm Defendant's privacy interests, particularly in this case where the Government is coordinating its criminal case with the Plaintiffs in the various civil suits pending between the Bunzl family and Defendant.” (Id.).

         On February 9, 2018, the Government filed its Response to Defendant's Motion to Seal Certain Competency Hearing Exhibits [119] (“Response to the January 29, 2018, Motion to Seal”). The Government states that it does not oppose Defendant's request to seal “(a) voluminous medical records submitted on a CD and records of hospital visits for discrete health issues in February and March 2017; and (b) two Government exhibits that contain cognitive testing materials and stimuli that do not appear to be publicly available on the internet.” ([119] at 1). The Government argues, however, that the remaining medical records and expert reports should not be sealed because it is “necessary for the public to evaluate, understand, and have confidence in the Court's finding that Defendant is competent.” (Id. at 4). The Government contends that, “[i]n light of the claims and arguments that [Defendant] has made, Defendant no longer has a legitimate privacy interest in the remaining medical records and expert reports.” ([119] at 5).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “The press and public enjoy a qualified First Amendment right of access to criminal trial proceedings.” United States v. Ochoa-Vasquez, 428 F.3d 1015, 1028 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court for the County of Norfolk, 457 U.S. 596, 603 (1982)). A “presumption of openness” governs, and may only be rebutted by the moving party if they “show ‘an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.'” Ochoa-Vasquez, 428 F.3d at1030 (quoting Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Ct. of Cal., Riverside County, 464 U.S. 501, 510 (1984)). “When sealing proceedings or documents, a court must articulate the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.