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Wayne B.Upshaw v. United States of America

December 9, 2010

WAYNE B.UPSHAW, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action was dismissed in its entirety and administratively closed on November 16, 2009. See Order (Nov. 16, 2009), Docket No. [23]. Plaintiff, with the United States' consent, now seeks to re-open the case solely to place the entirety of this action under seal and to remove one of the Court's public decisions from its website. See Pl.'s Consent Mot. for Leave to Reopen & Seal the Case ("Pl.'s Mot."), Docket No. [26]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is totally lacking in merit and shall be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff originally commenced this suit as a state-law tort action against three individuals in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. See Compl., Docket No. [1]. Subsequently, the United States was substituted as the sole defendant, the action was converted into one brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671 et seq., and the case was removed to this Court. See Not. of Removal, Docket No. [1]; Am. Compl., Docket No. [10]. Shortly thereafter, the United States filed a Motion to Dismiss. See Def.'s Renewed Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summ. J., Docket No. [13]. On November 16, 2009, the Court granted the United States' Motion to Dismiss and dismissed the action in its entirety. See Order (Nov. 16, 2010), Docket No. [23]. Accompanying the Court's Order was twenty-one page Memorandum Opinion (the "Memorandum Opinion") explaining the basis for the decision. See Mem. Op. (Nov. 16, 2010), Docket No. [24]. Unsurprisingly, in the course of resolving the motion, the Court cited to various allegations from Plaintiff's Complaint. See generally id.

Over nine months later, on August 17, 2010, Plaintiff filed the present Motion to Seal. See generally Pl.'s Mot. Hardly the model of artful drafting, Plaintiff appears to seek an order that the entirety of this action be placed under seal, id. at 1, which the Court shall construe as a request that the public docket and all its contents be sealed. Despite the breadth of Plaintiff's request, Plaintiff's concern (so far as the Court can tell) is directed primarily towards two specific documents: the Complaint and the Memorandum Opinion. Plaintiff specifically refers to "the sensitive nature of the allegations in the Complaint," and requests that the Memorandum Opinion "be removed from the Court's web site," as searches for his name in Internet search engines "bring[] up this case . . . which has been and could continue to be detrimental to" his ability to secure employment in the future. Id.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"[T]he decision as to access [to judicial records] is one best left to the sound discretion of the trial court, a discretion to be exercised in light of the relevant facts and circumstances of the particular case." United States v. Hubbard, 650 F.2d 292, 316-17 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978)) (notations in original). "[T]he starting point in considering a motion to seal court records is a 'strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial proceedings.'" EEOC v. Nat'l Children's Ctr. Inc., 98 F.3d 1406, 1409 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (quoting Johnson v. Greater Se. Cmty. Hosp. Corp., 951 F.2d 1268, 1277 (D.C. Cir. 1991)). In Hubbard, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals identified six factors that should be considered in determining whether a movant has shown sufficiently compelling circumstances to overcome the presumption in favor of public access:

(1) The need for public access to the documents at issue;

(2) The extent of previous public access to the documents at issue;

(3) The fact that someone has objected to disclosure, and the identity of that person;

(4) The strength of any property or privacy interests asserted;

(5) The possibility of prejudice to those opposing disclosure; and

(6) The purposes for which the documents were introduced during the judicial proceedings.

Hubbard, 650 F.2d at 317-22; see also Zapp v. Zhenli Ye Gon, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2010 WL 4260531, at *2 (D.D.C. Oct. 28, 2010) (outlining ...


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