Thursday, April 2, 2015

SD Fla Court Rejects Filing of Documents Under Seal Absent "a Showing of Extraordinary Circumstances"

In Wi-Lan USA, Inc. v. Telefonaktiebolaget TM Ericsson and Ericsson Inc., Case No. 12-23569-CV-Middlebrooks (S.D. Fla. March 2015), the Defendant filed an unopposed motion for leave to file its motion to strike certain paragraphs of the plaintiff’s  supplemental expert report under seal. Nonetheless, the district court ( Middlebrroks, J ) evaluated whether it was appropriate to seal the motion and accompanying exhibits. The Defendant had argued that the motion to strike refers to, quotes from, and attaches exhibits which are designated, contain, and constitute protected material under a Stipulated Protective Order.

The district court found that "[g]enerally, the public has a right 'to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.' Nixon v. Warner Comms., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). The Eleventh Circuit has noted, '[t]he operation of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges are matters of utmost public concern and the common-law right of access to judicial proceedings, an essential component of our system of justice, is instrumental in securing the integrity of the process.' Romero v. Drummond Co., 480 F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). 'This right of access is not absolute, however [and] may be overcome by a showing of good cause.' Id. 'Absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances . . . the court file must remain accessible to the public.' Brown v. Advantage Eng 'g, Inc., 960 F. 2d 1013, 1016 (11th Cir. 1992)."

The district judge went on to comment,  "As I cautioned in the Protective Order, motions to file documents under seal 'will not be granted absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances which justify the denial of public access to the judicial record.', citing Brown v. Advantage Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.3d 1013, 1016 (11th Cir. 1992))." The district court further held that there was insufficient justification for filing the documents under seal. "The Parties' designation of certain documents as confidential, by itself, does not justify sealing the record. Indeed, I reminded the Parties of my policy on sealing when I denied several Motions to Seal earlier in the case. Defendants' Motion to Strike includes 575 pages of exhibits. The Court will not sort through 575 pages to determine what information may be confidential. To the extent Ericsson's source code or algorithms are disclosed within these documents, Ericsson may redact the code and/or algorithms prior to re-filing its Motion to Strike. Because Ericsson has not presented any other justifications for sealing the record, I find that Ericsson has failed to present extraordinary circumstances that warrant filing its Motion for Summary Judgment and accompanying documentation under seal."