United States District Court, D. Maine
DAVID E. MURRAY, Plaintiff
WAL-MART STORES, INC., and WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P., Defendants
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO SEAL
H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge.
employment action, the defendants, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and
Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (together,
“Wal-Mart”), move to seal their motion for
summary judgment and associated documents and exhibits,
see Defendants' Motion To File Under Seal Their
Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) (ECF No.
198) at 1, comprising ECF Nos. 198-200 and all attachments
thereto. After an in camera review, I grant the
Motion in part as to all of the documents at issue except for
ECF Nos. 198 (the Motion), 198-9, and 198-13, with respect to
which I deny it. The defendants are ordered to file public
versions of those documents on CM-ECF no later than October
31, 2019, with personally identifiable information redacted
from ECF Nos. 198-9 and 198-13.
defendants contend that this employment action between
Wal-Mart and one of its regional executives is rife with
confidential information implicating not only the privacy
interests of third parties and the plaintiff, but also its
own commercial information. See Defendants'
Reply in Support of [Their] Motion To Seal
(“Reply”) (ECF No. 204) at 3. On that basis, they
move to seal their motion for summary judgment and its
supporting documents. See Motion at 1-2; Reply at
3-6; ECF Nos. 198-200 & all attachments thereto. The
plaintiff opposes the motion to seal. See
Plaintiff's Objection to Defendants' Motion To Seal
Motion for Summary Judgment, SMF and All Exhibits
(“Opposition”) (ECF No. 201); Plaintiff's
Opposition to Defendants' Reply (“Surreply”)
(ECF No. 212). I have reviewed the filings in
plaintiff opposes the defendants' motion to seal on the
general grounds that there is a “strong presumption
that judicial records are open to the public” and that
the Motion suffers various procedural defects. Opposition at
1-9; Surreply at 1-5.
the common law, there is a long-standing presumption of
public access to judicial records.” In re Gitto
Global Corp., 422 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2005). “This
presumption of access helps safeguard the integrity, quality,
and respect in our judicial system, and permits the public to
keep a watchful eye on the workings of public
agencies.” Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
right of public access to judicial records is not absolute,
and “it is within a court's discretion to
curtail” it; for example, “to prevent judicial
records from being used to gratify private spite or promote
public scandal, or to prevent [such] records from becoming
reservoirs of libelous statements for press consumption or
sources of business information that might harm a
litigant's competitive standing.” Id.
(citations and internal punctuation omitted). Still,
“only the most compelling reasons can justify
non-disclosure of judicial records.” Id.
(citation and internal punctuation omitted).
defendants argue that the confidential nature of their
summary judgment motion and its supporting documentation
presents a compelling reason for sealing those documents,
which reveal (i) confidential information regarding the
plaintiff, (ii) confidential information regarding third
parties, and (iii) confidential commercial information.
See Reply at 3. They assert that whatever interest
the plaintiff may have in the public disclosure of private
and confidential records of Wal-Mart and third parties does
not outweigh their legitimate privacy rights. See
case, this court entered a confidentiality order, agreed to
by the parties, that defines confidential information as
“information protected from disclosure by statute or
that should be protected from disclosure as confidential
personal information, trade secrets, personnel records, or
commercial information.” Consent Confidentiality Order
(ECF No. 18) at 3. It provides that “[i]nformation or
documents that are available in the public sector may not be
designated as” confidential. Id. I find that,
at the summary judgment stage, concerns about protecting
confidential information constitute a compelling reason for
protecting judicial records. Thus, documents containing
information that meets the definition of confidential
information pursuant to the parties' confidentiality
order should be sealed.
threshold matter, all three categories outlined by the
defendants fall well within the bounds of confidential
information as defined in the confidentiality order.
Therefore, to the extent that the motion for summary judgment
and associated documents and exhibits reveal confidential
information about third parties, the plaintiff, or the
defendants' business practices, they should remain sealed
at this stage of the proceedings.
in camera review, I find that almost all of the
documents at issue fall within one of those three categories,
containing sensitive, confidential information that the
parties have a legitimate interest in protecting.
Accordingly, they should remain sealed. However, the
Motion itself, as well as two attachments to the
defendants' motion for summary judgment, ECF Nos. 198-9
and 198-13, appear to contain no such confidential
information and, hence, should be unsealed. I caution that my
partial grant of the defendants' motion to seal is
intended as an interim measure - a mere declination to ring a
bell that cannot, as is true of all bells, be un-rung.
“A trial is presumed to be public[.]”
Nat'l Org. for Marriage v. McKee, Civil No.
09-538-B-H, 2011 WL 285684, at *1 (D. Me. Jan. 26, 2011). If
the court denies Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment
in whole or in part, necessitating trial, any attempt at
trial to seal or redact trial exhibits or testimony will
require a motion meeting the high threshold applicable in
foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion to seal ECF
Nos. 198-200 and all attachments thereto is
GRANTED as to all documents except for ECF
Nos. 198, 198-9, and 198-13, with respect to which it is
DENIED. The defendants are
DIRECTED to file on the CM-ECF docket, no
later than October 31, 2019, public copies of ECF Nos. 198,