United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANT GAUDETTE'S MOTION FOR
Brock Hornby United States District Judge.
lawsuit the plaintiff claims that years ago the defendant,
then a police officer, sexually abused him; the defendant
denies it. The defendant has moved for sanctions in the
nature of civil contempt because in October of 2017 the
plaintiff violated this Court's Confidentiality Order
with respect to certain 1990 interview transcripts. The
plaintiff has conceded that he showed the transcripts to his
wife knowing that doing so was a violation of the Court's
Confidentiality Order. Decl. of Scott Frechette ¶ 4, Ex.
A to Pl.'s Objection to Motion for Sanctions (ECF No.
First Circuit has established four criteria for civil
contempt sanctions against a party: a clear and unambiguous
order; notice that the person was covered by the order;
ability to comply with the order; and violation of the order.
United States v. Saccoccia, 433 F.3d 19, 27 (1st
Cir. 2005). The plaintiff does not dispute that the four
criteria are satisfied here. He recognizes that he should not
have shown the transcripts to his wife, but argues that the
sexual abuse he suffered made it difficult for him to discuss
openly what happened to him and that he gave her the
transcripts to read instead. Pl.'s Objection at 2-3 (ECF
No. 36). She has now signed the “Acknowledgment and
Agreement to be Bound” document that applies to those
persons with access to documents covered by the
Confidentiality Order. Ex. C to Pl.'s Objection (ECF No.
Woodcock of this District has announced carefully and clearly
the applicable standards in a case like this. The court
“must remain agnostic at least until a verdict, ”
Hearts with Haiti, Inc. v. Kendrick, No. 13-cv-39,
2015 WL 732659, at *11 (D. Me. Feb. 20, 2015), and is
“in no position to prejudge who will prevail.”
Id. At this stage, therefore, I cannot excuse the
plaintiff's violation of the Court's Confidentiality
Order on the grounds he advances. Even though the
plaintiff's wife assertedly did not discuss the
interviews with anyone else, Decl. of Angela Frechette ¶
5, Ex. B to Pl.'s Objection (ECF No. 36-2), the plaintiff
remains “responsible for deliberately violating the
Court's orders by dissemination, but not . . . .”
Hearts with Haiti, 2015 WL 732659, at *14.
remedy, the defendant requests an order that all the
documents produced to the plaintiff himself that were subject
to the confidentiality order be destroyed, that the plaintiff
not disseminate any information from them, and that such
documents in the future be limited to review by the
plaintiff's lawyers only. Def.'s Reply at 4 (ECF No.
37). The plaintiff has not addressed the particular requests,
arguing only that in light of the limited disclosure and the
excuse he advances, “[t]his Court should take no
further action” on the motion. Pl.'s Objection at
5. In an earlier ruling in the Hearts with Haiti
case, Magistrate Judge Rich found relief such as that
requested here to be “well within the scope of
reasonable sanctions for the egregious misconduct of [a party
who intentionally violated a Court's Confidentiality
Order].” Hearts with Haiti, Inc. v. Kendrick, No.
13-cv-39, 2014 WL 1119752, at *2 (D. Me. Mar. 20, 2014).
The defendant also requests that the plaintiff pay attorney
fees for the defendant's sanctions motion. Judge Woodcock
granted such relief in the February 2015 Hearts with
Haiti Order as “not uncommon for successful
contempt motions” where it is difficult to measure the
actual harm caused by noncompliance. 2015 WL 732659, at *16.
the case here. The disclosure appears to have been limited to
the plaintiff's wife and she has agreed not to disclose
the “documents or information derived directly
therefrom to any other person.” Acknowledgment and
Agreement to be Bound, Ex. C to Pl.'s Objection. The
actual damage caused by the disclosure therefore appears
minor. But the court must uphold the integrity of its orders
lest the plaintiff or others conclude that they can make
their own decisions about whether to comply.
therefore Grant the defendant's motion
for sanctions, and Order:
1. All documents designated confidential under the existing
order that have been produced to the plaintiff shall now be
limited to review by his attorneys only;
2. The plaintiff shall destroy any copies of any documents
produced to him that were designated as confidential under
the confidentiality order, and shall not disseminate any
information derived directly from those documents;
3. The plaintiff shall pay the defendant's reasonable
attorney fees associated with the sanctions motion practice.
Like Judge Woodcock, however, I direct that the
defendant's lawyers “be conservative in [their]
billing, ” Hearts with Haiti, 2015 WL 732659,
at *16, and I also recognize that the plaintiff's ready
admission to his violation and the steps he took to stop
further disclosure limited the need for extensive briefing.
4. To implement #3, the defendant's lawyers shall submit
their application for approval of fees within 14 days of this
Order. The plaintiff may file an objection to the amount
within 7 days thereafter.