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United States ex rel. Grover v. Related Cos., L.P.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 14, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. SANJAY GROVER, Plaintiff,
v.
RELATED COMPANIES, LP, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL SANJAY GROVER, Plaintiff: Darrell C. Valdez, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC; Janet Lyn Goldstein, VOGEL, SLADE & GOLDSTEIN, LLP, Washington, DC; Mercedeh Momeni, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

For SANJAY GROVER, Plaintiff: Robert L. Vogel, LEAD ATTORNEY, Janet Lyn Goldstein, VOGEL, SLADE & GOLDSTEIN, LLP, Washington, DC; Debra S. Katz, KATZ, MARSHALL & BANKS, LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Presently before the Court is the Relator's [11] Motion to Maintain Seal on this Case or, in the Alternative, for Leave to File a Redacted Amended Complaint. The Government opposes the Relator's motion to maintain the case under seal to the extent the Relator seeks to keep the complaint, the Relator's request for dismissal, and the Government's consent to dismissal under seal. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court DENIES the Relator's Motion for the reasons set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Relator Sanjay Grover (" Relator" ) filed this action on October 21, 2011, under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq., alleging that his coworkers, employees of Fannie Mae, had conspired to purposefully undervalue property assets, transfer the property to private ownership, and then personally profit fro reselling the properties, at the expense of the United States Treasury. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-4, ECF No. [1]. Pursuant to the qui tam provisions of the FCA, Relator filed this matter under seal so the United States could investigate these allegations. On June 27, 2013, prior to the United States informing the Court of its decision whether or not to intervene in the case, Relator filed a Request for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice. See ECF No. [10]. The Relator also moved the Court to allow the case to remain under seal permanently or, in the alternative, to allow Relator to file a redacted Amended Complaint. See Rel.'s

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Mot. to Maintain Seal or, in the Alternative, for Leave to File a Redacted Amended Complaint, ECF No. [11] (" Rel.'s Mot." ). The United States consented to the voluntary dismissal but objected to Relator's request to keep the case under seal. See Govt.'s Notice of Consent to Dismissal and Motion to Temporarily Maintain the Seal, ECF No. [12]. The Government instead asked that the pleadings that do not reflect its investigative efforts-- i.e., the Complaint, Relator's Voluntary Dismissal, and the United States' Consent to Entry of Voluntary Dismissal--be unsealed, but that all other filings remain sealed. See id. at 2. On July 1, 2013, the Court dismissed this case without prejudice and ordered that the parties fully brief the sealing issue, which is now complete. 7/1/2013 Order, ECF No. [13].

II. DISCUSSION

" [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 293, 316-17, 208 U.S.App. D.C. 399 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978)). In this Circuit, " the 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, 321 U.S.App. D.C. 243 (D.C. Cir.1996) (quoting Johnson v. Greater Se. Cmty. Hosp. Corp., 951 F.2d 1268, 1277, 293 U.S.App. D.C. 1 (D.C. Cir. 1991)). In Hubbard, the D.C. Circuit identified six factors that might act to overcome this presumption:

(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 and privacy interests asserted; (5) the possibility of prejudice to those opposing disclosure; and ...

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