United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
KELSEY D. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
HOUSTON HEALTHCARE SYSTEM INC., et al., Defendants.
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
parties have filed a consent motion to seal documents
regarding their settlement (Docs. 60; 60-1; 60-2; 60-3; 62).
Doc. 63. The documents the parties wish to seal include an
unopposed motion for settlement approval and establishment of
a special needs trust (Doc. 60) and the Court's order
granting that motion (Doc. 62).
public enjoys a qualified common-law right of access to
judicial proceedings. See generally Chicago Tribune Co.
v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir.
2001). “Beyond establishing a general presumption that
criminal and civil actions should be conducted publicly, the
common-law right of access includes the right to inspect and
copy public records and documents.” Id. at
1311 (citation omitted). But this right is not absolute and
“may be overcome by a showing of good cause.”
Romero v. Drummond Co., 480 F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th
Cir. 2007). Courts deciding whether to seal documents must
balance the interest of the parties and the public and may
consider, among other factors, “whether allowing access
would impair court functions or harm legitimate privacy
interests, the degree of and likelihood of 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.” Id. at 1246; see also
Chicago Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1311 (“[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 documents in question].” (citation
parties do not dispute that the documents at issue here are
subject to the common-law right of access. However, they
contend that these documents contain sensitive information
relating to legitimate privacy interests. Courts have sealed
settlement agreements and other documents in cases where
confidential information about minors would be exposed.
See, e.g., Wittenberg v.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth Cty. Bd. of Educ., 2009 WL
1684585, at *2-*3 (M.D. N.C. 2009); Webster Groves Sch.
Dist. v. Pultizer Pub. Co., 898 F.2d 1371, 1374-77 (8th
Cir. 1990). But in this case, the parties do not argue that
confidential information regarding a minor is at
risk. Instead, they argue that the
“legitimate privacy reasons” are “the
ability of the defendants to resolve other cases (pending and
future) and the facts the parties have all agreed to the
confidentiality thereof. To allow [these documents] to be
public would violate the intent of the parties.
Confidentiality is an agreed upon part of [the parties']
conclusory assertions of possible harm, such as those stated
by the parties, do not show good cause. Romero, 480
F.3d at 1247. “‘The part[ies] opposing disclosure
must make a particular and specific demonstration of fact
showing that disclosure would result in an injury
sufficiently serious to warrant protection.'”
In re: Photochromic Lens Antitrust Litig., 2011 WL
13141945, at *1 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (quoting In re Parmalat
Secs. Litig., 258 F.R.D. 236, 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)).
Furthermore, “[i]t is immaterial whether the sealing of
the record is an integral part of a negotiated settlement
between the parties. . . . Once a matter is brought before a
court for resolution, it is no longer solely the parties'
case, but also the public's case . . . [a]bsent a showing
of extraordinary circumstances.” Brown v. Advantage
Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.2d 1013, 1016 (11th Cir. 1992).
parties have failed to analyze the balancing test in
Romero or show that this was an extraordinary
circumstance. Balancing the privacy interests provided by the
parties-or lack thereof-against the presumption of openness
that governs the Court's decision, the Court concludes
the parties have failed to overcome the common-law right of
access by a showing of good cause. Accordingly, the
parties' consent motion to seal the documents (Doc. 63)
 “In most cases when the parties
settle, the court does not examine or approve their
agreements; the settlements are purely private contracts.
However, when, as here, a settlement is approved by a court,
the settlement becomes part of the judicial record.”
Stainaker v. Novar Corp., 293 F.Supp.2d 1260, 1263
(M.D. Ala. 2003).
 The Plaintiff is the mother and next
friend of J.P.G., a minor, and brings this case on his
behalf. Docs. 1; 59.
 On May 22, 2019, the parties filed
their motion to seal documents pertaining to their settlement
without providing any legal authority. Doc. 63. The Court
asked the parties to provide it with legal authority via
email. In their response email, the parties cited El v.
Poff, 2018 WL 4688720 (S.D. Ga. 2018), which held that
parties must show good cause to seal a court document. The
parties stated that they have shown good cause because the
settlement would affect the Defendants' ability to
resolve other ...