United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil action is before the Court on plaintiff's renewed
Motion for Leave to File Documents Under Seal [Doc. 61].
Defendant filed a response in opposition [Doc. 65], and
plaintiff replied [Doc. 75]. For the reasons discussed
herein, the Court will grant plaintiff's motion.
documents at issue in this motion to seal relate to
plaintiff's Motion to Disqualify the law firm Long,
Ragsdale & Waters, P.C. [Doc. 17]. Plaintiff initially
moved to file the documents under seal in connection with its
reply brief in support of that motion [Doc. 35]. On December
8, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley,
Jr. granted plaintiff's motion to disqualify, but denied
without prejudice its motion for leave to file the documents
under seal [Doc. 54]. In denying the motion to seal, Judge
Shirley stated “plaintiff may refile [the motion]
consistent with Local Rule 26” [Id. at 19].
December 22, 2016, defendant filed an objection to Judge
Shirley's disqualification order [Doc. 56]. Subsequently
thereafter, plaintiff filed the instant renewed motion for
leave to file the relevant documents under seal [Doc. 61].
parties place materials in a court record, “there is a
strong presumption that [the documents] should be open to the
public.” In re Se. Milk Antitrust Litig., 666
F.Supp.2d 908, 915 (E.D. Tenn. 2009). “The burden of
overcoming that presumption is born by the party that seeks
to seal them.” Shane Grp., Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue
Shield of Mich., 825 F.3d 299, 305 (6th Cir. 2016). The
party must show that there is a “compelling
reason” to justify sealing the documents, and that the
seal is “narrowly tailored to serve that reason.”
Id. In doing so, the proponent of sealing
“must analyze in detail, document by document, the
propriety of secrecy, providing reasons and legal
citations.” Id. at 305-06.
renewed motion, plaintiff asks the Court to permit it to file
twenty-three documents under seal. Plaintiff submits that
filing these documents under seal is warranted because
portions of the documents are covered by attorney-client
and/or work product privilege. In support of its motion to
seal, plaintiff filed the proposed documents under seal for
the Court's review [Doc. 62], and also publicly filed
redacted versions of the documents [Doc. 61-2].
opposes plaintiff's motion. Defendant contends that the
Court should not permit plaintiff to file these documents
under seal because: 1) plaintiff's attempt to file these
documents in support of a motion that has already been
decided is improper; 2) plaintiff's filing is untimely
and plaintiff has not made the required showing of excusable
neglect to file these documents late; and 3) plaintiff has
not carried its burden of showing that the documents should
initial point, the Court notes that Judge Shirley gave
plaintiff permission to refile the relevant documents when he
denied plaintiff's initial motion to seal, and
furthermore he did not provide plaintiff with any time limit
for refiling the documents [See Doc. 54 p. 19].
Although defendant has filed an objection to Judge
Shirley's disqualification order, it has not objected to
the portion of the order in which Judge Shirley invited
plaintiff to refile the relevant documents [See Doc.
56]. Therefore, to the extent that defendant opposes
plaintiff's motion on the grounds that plaintiff's
attempt to refile the documents is improper, or that the
filing of these documents is untimely, these arguments are
not well taken.
Court next considers whether plaintiff has carried its burden
of showing that the relevant documents should be filed under
seal. In order to meet this burden, plaintiff must show both
a compelling reason that these documents should be filed
under seal and that the seal is narrowly tailored to that
reason. See Shane Grp., 825 F.3d at 305. Plaintiff
argues that it has met this burden because the relevant
documents contain information protected by the
attorney-client and work-product privileges. In support of
this argument, plaintiff submits the declaration of attorney
Janet Gertz, who provides that she has reviewed and redacted
the documents for claims of privilege [Doc. 61-1]. Plaintiff
also submits a privilege log of the relevant documents,
including a brief description of each document as well as the
type of privilege claimed [Id.].
review of the proposed sealed documents, Gertz's
declaration, and plaintiff's privilege log, the Court
finds that plaintiff has demonstrated a compelling reason
sufficient to warrant the filing of these documents under
seal. Courts within this circuit have found such a compelling
reason where documents implicate “the privacy rights of
participants or third parties.” See In re Se. Milk
Antitrust Litig., 666 F.Supp.2d at 915. Documents
invoking either work-product or attorney-client privilege
implicate such privacy rights and, therefore, provide grounds
for plaintiff to file the documents under seal. See
e.g., Criswell v. City of O'Fallon, No.
4:06CV01565, 2008 WL 2206391, at *3 (E.D. Mo. May, 232008)
(ordering that documents protected by attorney-client
privilege be placed under seal).
addition, plaintiff filed a public version of these documents
with only minimal redactions [Doc. 61-2]. Indeed, although
the documents total over one hundred pages, many of the pages
contain either no redactions at all, or only a few redacted
words [See e.g., Id. at 7]. Because the public
versions of the relevant documents are only lightly redacted
to prevent the disclosure of privileged ...