United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ORDER DENYING JOINT MOTION FOR PERMISSION TO FILE
UNDER SEAL (DOC. 4)
Timothy S. Black, United State District Judge.
an employment discrimination lawsuit. On December 21, 2016,
Plaintiff filed the Complaint alleging Defendants
discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of sex and race
and retaliated against Plaintiff for engaging in protected
activity. (Doc. 1). The Complaint asserts claims under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well as
Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01, et seq.
parties have resolved their claims and executed a settlement
agreement. On July 21, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion
for approval of their settlement agreement. (Doc. 5). Also on
July 21, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion for
permission to file the settlement agreement under seal. (Doc.
4). The parties do not explain why any information in their
settlement agreement warrants filing under seal, only that
the terms of the agreement “are confidential” and
“the parties desire that the terms and conditions of
[the settlement agreement] therefore not be entered into the
public record.” (Id. at 1).
district court's decision to seal court records is
reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Klingenberg v. Fed.
Home Loan Mortg. Co., 658 Fed.Appx. 202, 207 (6th Cir.
2016) (citing Shane Grp. Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue
Shield, 825 F.3d 299, 306 (6th Cir. 2016)). However,
“the district court's decision is not accorded the
deference that standard normally brings.” Id.
because there is a “stark” difference between, on
one hand, the propriety of allowing litigants to exchange
documents in secret, and on the other hand, allowing
litigants to shield from public view those documents which
are ultimately relied on in the Court's adjudication.
See Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 305. Parties are
typically entitled to a “protective order”
limiting disclosure of documents in discovery upon a mere
showing of good cause. Id. However, “very
different considerations apply” when these materials
are filed in the public record. Id.
information merely exchanged between the parties, the public
has a strong interest in obtaining the information contained
in the court record. Id. Accordingly, the courts
have long recognized a “strong presumption in favor of
openness” of court records. Id. (quoting
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710
F.2d 1165, 1180 (6th Cir. 1983)).
times in the past two years the Sixth Circuit has explained
that a party moving to seal court records must overcome a
significant burden. See Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at
305-06; Klingenberg, 658 Fed.Appx. at 207-08;
Rudd Equip. Co. v. John Deere Constr. &
Forestry Co., 834 F.3d 589, 593-96 (6th Cir. 2016).
According to the Sixth Circuit:
The burden of overcoming that presumption [of openness] is
borne by the party that seeks to seal them. In re Cendant
Corp., 260 F.3d 183, 194 (3d Cir. 2001). The burden is a
heavy one: “Only the most compelling reasons can
justify the non-disclosure of judicial records.” In
re Knoxville News-Sentinel Co., 723 F.2d 470, 476 (6th
Cir. 1983). . . . And even where a party can show a
compelling reason why certain documents or portions thereof
should be sealed, the seal itself must be narrowly tailored
to serve that reason. See, e.g., Press-Enter.
Co. v. Superior Court of California, Riverside Cnty.,
464 U.S. 501, 509-11, 104 S.Ct. 819, 78 L.Ed.2d 629 (1984).
The proponent of sealing therefore must “analyze in
detail, document by document, the propriety of secrecy,
providing reasons and legal citations.”
Baxter, 297 F.3d at 548.
Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 305-06.
movant's obligation to provide compelling
reasons justifying the seal exists even if the parties
themselves agree the filings should be sealed.
See Rudd Equip., 834 F.3d at 595 (noting the parties
“could not have waived the public's First
Amendment and common law right of access to court
filings”) (citation omitted); see also In re
Knoxville News-Sentinel Co., 723 F.2d 470, 475 (6th Cir.
1983) (in reviewing a motion to seal, the district court has
“an obligation to consider the rights of the
public”). Simply put, this Court has an obligation to
keep its records open for public inspection and that
obligation is not conditioned upon the desires of the parties
to the case. Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 307.
district court that chooses to seal court records must set
forth specific findings and conclusions “which justify
nondisclosure to the public.” Id. at 306
(quoting Brown & Williamson, 710 F.2d at 1176).
A court's failure to set forth reasons explaining why the
interests in support of nondisclosure are compelling, why the
interests supporting access are less so, and why the seal
itself is no broader than necessary is grounds to vacate an
order to seal. Id.