United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on plaintiff Kiwewa's motion
to seal the record (Doc. 74) and supporting document (Doc.
75). Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed the complaint in
this action in December 2015, alleging discrimination on the
basis of his national origin against defendant. (Doc. 1). The
Court granted summary judgment in defendant's favor and
the case was terminated on the Court's docket on October
18, 2017. (Doc. 67).
moves to seal the record of the proceedings in this case on
the grounds that his reputation has been harmed by these
proceedings, the record contains sensitive personal
information regarding his date of birth, and third-party
minors will suffer harm if the record remains public. (Doc.
74 at 1-2). Plaintiff claims that prospective employers who
search his name on the internet are able to access his case,
which has prevented plaintiff from obtaining new employment.
(Id. at 1). Additionally, plaintiff alleges that
case documents contain his date of birth, which should not be
public. (Id.). Plaintiff also claims his minor
children are adversely affected by the records being public
because they share his last name and are therefore associated
with the case. (Id. at 1-2).
district courts have considerable discretion regarding the
management of their records and files, that discretion is
"'circumscribed' by the traditional and
'presumptive right of the public to inspect and copy
judicial documents and files.'" United States v.
Contents of Nationwide Life Ins. Co. Account No. X0961 in
Name of Warshak, No. C-1-05-196, 2006 WL 971978, at *3
(S.D. Ohio Apr. 12, 2006) (quoting Knoxville
News-Sentinel Co. v. Knoxville Journal Corp., 723 F.2d
470, 473-74 (6th Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted)).
The Sixth Circuit has "long recognized a 'strong
presumption in favor of openness'" of court records.
Rudd Equipment Company, Inc. v. John Deere Construction
& Forestry Company, 834 F.3d 589, 593 (6th Cir.
2016) (quoting Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v.
FTC, 710 F.2d 1165, 1179 (6th Cir. 1983)). This is
because the resolution of private civil cases frequently
involves issues and remedies that are crucial for the public
to know. See Brown & Williamson, 710 F.2d at
1179. However, courts have the "power to seal their
records when interests of privacy outweigh the public's
right to know." Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.,
723 F.2d at 474 (citations omitted).
there is a long-recognized, strong presumption of openness of
court records, the party who seeks to seal court records
bears a heavy burden of overcoming the presumption. Shane
Group, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, 825
F.3d 299, 305 (6th Cir. 2016). "Only the most compelling
reasons can justify non-disclosure of judicial records."
Id. (quoting Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.,
723 F.2d at 476). Even when a party can show a
"compelling reason" why specific documents or
portions of documents should be sealed, "the seal itself
must be narrowly tailored to serve that reason."
Id. The party requesting to seal the record must
"analyze in detail, document by document, the propriety
of secrecy, providing reasons and legal citations."
Id. (quoting Baxter Intern., Inc. v. Abbott
Laboratories, 297 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 2002)).
Further, the party seeking to seal the record has the burden
to show that "disclosure will work a clearly defined and
serious injury[.]" Id. at 307 (quoting In
re Cendant Corp., 260 F.3d 183, 194 (3d Cir. 2001)
("In order to override the common law right of access,
the party seeking... the sealing of part of the judicial
record 'bears the burden of showing that the material is
the kind of information that courts will protect' and
that 'disclosure will work a clearly defined and serious
injury to the party seeking closure.'")).
harm is not a compelling reason that justifies nondisclosure.
Procter & Gamble v. Bankers Trust, 78 F.3d 219,
225 (6th Cir. 1996). "[P]rivate litigants' interest
in protecting their vanity or their commercial
self-interest" is not grounds for keeping information
under seal. Id.; see also Contents of Nationwide
Life Ins., 2006 WL 971978, at *4 ("[T]he prospect
that disclosure of unproven allegations will expose a party
to reputational or (by extension) commercial harm does not
outweigh the common-law presumption of public access to court
records."); see also Karl v. Bizar, No.
2:09-CV-34, 2009 WL 3644115, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 28, 2009)
("[C]laimed harm to one's reputation or injury to
one's standing in the community does not warrant a
deviation from the strong presumption of public
has not demonstrated there is a compelling reason to seal the
record of this case that is sufficient to overcome the strong
presumption of openness of court records. First, plaintiff
argues that his reputation is harmed by the records remaining
unsealed, and the damage to his reputation has prevented him
from obtaining employment. Accepting as true plaintiffs claim
that information in the case record is harmful to his
reputation and his ability to obtain employment, reputational
harm does not outweigh the public's right to know about
the court proceedings and filings. The reputational harm
alleged by plaintiff is not sufficient to overcome the strong
presumption in favor of openness.
plaintiff states that his date of birth is sensitive
information that appears in the record and warrants sealing
the record. (Doc. 74 at 1). Plaintiffs general allegation
does not satisfy his burden to analyze the specific documents
in the record and provide a compelling reason why each
document or specified portions of documents should be sealed.
Plaintiff has not indicated where in the record his date of
birth appears and has not specified which parts of the record
he requests to seal for this reason. His allegation that his
date of birth appears somewhere in the record is not a
compelling reason to seal the entire case record. Further,
although an individual's full date of birth is protected
from disclosure under the federal rules, the protection is
waived as to an individual's own information if he files
it "without redaction and not under seal."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2(a)(2), (h). Because plaintiff has not
identified the portions of the record that contain his full
date of birth, it is not clear whether plaintiff has waived
the protection of Rule 5.2. Plaintiff is not entitled to have
the case record sealed on the ground his date of birth
appears in the record.
plaintiff states that his minor children are
"inadvertently identified by this case." (Doc. 74
at 2). If the minors' first names appeared in the record,
they would be entitled to the protection afforded by
Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2(a)(3) (affording privacy protections to
minors by allowing them to be designated by their initials in
any electronic or paper court filing). However, plaintiff
does not allege that his minor children are referenced by
name in the record or that they are involved in the case. The
mere fact that plaintiffs minor children share his last name
is not a sufficient reason to seal the record.
has not proffered a sound reason for sealing the record in
this case. Plaintiffs allegations provide no indication that
his privacy interests outweigh the public's right to
know. Plaintiff has not overcome the strong presumption in
favor of maintaining open court records.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED THAT:
Plaintiff Kiwewa's motion to seal the record (Doc. 74) is