United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ORDER GRANTING THE PARTIES' UNOPPOSED MOTIONS TO
SEAL (DOCS. 48, 51)
Timothy S. Black, United States District Judge.
civil action is before the Court on the parties'
unopposed motions to seal. (Docs. 48, 51).
is an Ohio corporation, headquartered in Cincinnati. (Doc. 1
at ¶ 5). Defendant is a Washington corporation,
headquartered in Seattle. (Id. at ¶ 6). Both
parties offer property-management products: Plaintiff's
is called “Rent Manager”; Defendant's is
called “Zillow Rental Manager.” (Id. at
¶¶ 10, 12; Doc. 27-1 at 14).
October 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant for,
inter alia, trademark infringement, deceptive trade
practices, and unfair competition. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶
16-55). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion for a
preliminary injunction (the “Preliminary
Injunction”). (Doc. 27).
November 14, 2018, the Court granted the parties leave to
file their Preliminary Injunction memoranda (and related
declarations, exhibits, etc.) under conditional seal. (Doc.
26 at 5). However, the Court directed the parties to submit
motions to seal within 30 days. (Id.)
Court held as follows:
[T]he Court will allow the parties to file their pleadings
under seal on the condition that the seal will expire 30 days
from filing unless (1) one party, or both of the parties,
successfully move(s) to seal the filing under the proper
standard set forth by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, or
(2) one party, or both of the parties, move(s) to extend the
conditional period on the basis that a motion to seal is
pending before the Court.
to the Court's direction, the parties filed numerous
documents under conditional seal. (See Docs. 27-32,
35-39, 42-43, 45-46 (including numerous attachments)).
Thereafter, the parties filed motions to seal. (Docs. 48,
51). The parties' motions to seal are now ripe for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court's decision to seal court records is
reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Beauchamp v. Fed.
Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 658 Fed.Appx. 202, 207 (6th Cir.
2016) (citing Shane Grp., Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield
of Mich., 825 F.3d 299, 306 (6th Cir. 2016)). However,
“the district court's decision is not accorded the
deference that standard normally brings.” Id.
(quoting Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 306).
is a “stark” difference between, on the one hand,
the propriety of allowing litigants to exchange documents in
secret, and on the other hand, the propriety of 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 the 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. (quoting Joy
v. North, 692 F.2d 880, 893 (2d Cir. 1982)).
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, 1179 (6th Cir. 1983)).
Sixth Circuit has repeatedly explained that a party moving to
seal court records must overcome a significant burden.
See Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 305-06;
Beauchamp, 658 Fed. App'x 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 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
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 that 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, 723 F.2d at 475 (noting that, 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.
See Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 306.
district court that chooses to seal court records must set
forth specific findings and conclusions “which justify
nondisclosure to the public.” Id. (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 in support of access are less so, and why the seal
itself is no broader than necessary is grounds to vacate an
order to seal. Id.
Plaintiff's Motion to Seal
argues that the following documents (the “Pl.
Docs.”) contain highly confidential business
information, which should remain under seal:
• Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Renewed
Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 27-1);
• Deposition of David Hegemann and Exhibits 7-14 and 17
attached thereto ...