United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon applicant's Motion for
Leave to File Documents Under Seal [Dkt. 2] filed on
September 29, 2017. Applicant's motion seeks to seal its
Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award, as well as two
exhibits attached thereto: the Binding Mediation Decision
issued by the three-member mediation panel and the
parties' Amended and Restated Stacktrain Services
Agreement and Schedules A-F and Appendices 1-4 thereto. In
support of its motion, applicant directs the Court to the
confidentiality terms of the parties' Services Agreement
and represents that "[b]oth parties have strong property
and privacy interests in maintaining the confidentiality of
these documents, as they contain highly sensitive propriety
[sic] commercial information, " including information
regarding the parties' "rates and business
practices." See Mot. 4. Beyond these general
assertions, however, applicant's motion proffers little
to justify sealing what, in effect, amounts to the entire
substantive record in this case.
country has a "strong tradition of access to judicial
proceedings." United States v. Hubbard. 650
F.2d 293, 317 n.89 (D.C. Cir. 1980). "[A]s a general
rule, the courts are not intended to be, nor should they be,
secretive places for the resolution of secret disputes."
United States v. Bank Julius, Baer & Co., 149
F.Supp.3d 69, 70 (D.D.C. 2015) (citing Nixon v. Warner
Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978)); see
also Metlife Inc. v. Fin. Stability Oversight
Council, 865 F.3d 661, 665 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
Accordingly, "[t]he starting point in considering a
motion to seal court records is a strong presumption in favor
of public access to judicial proceedings." Hardaway
v. D.C. Hous. Auth., 843 F.3d 973, 980 (D.C. Cir. 2016)
(quoting EEOC v. Nat'l Children's Ctr.,
Inc., 98 F.3d 1406, 1409 (D.C. Cir. 1996)).
determine whether a party seeking to seal court records has
overcome this presumption, courts apply a six-factor
balancing test to assess:
(1) the need for public access to the documents at issue; (2)
the extent of previous public access to the documents; (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
in those opposing disclosure; and (6) the purposes for which
the documents were introduced during the judicial
See EEOC v. Nat'l Children's Ctr.. Inc., 98
F.3d at 1409 (citing United States v. Hubbard, 650
F.2d at 317-22). Records may be sealed "only 'if the
district court, after considering the relevant facts and
circumstances of the particular case, and after weighing the
interests advanced by the parties in light of the public
interest and the duty of the courts, concludes that justice
so requires.'" Metlife Inc. v. Fin. Stability
Oversight Council, 865 F.3d at 665-66 (quoting In
re Nat'l Broad. Co.. 653 F.2d 609, 613
(D.C. Cir. 1981)).
the strong presumption in favor of public access and the ease
with which confidential information may be redacted from
documents before they are publicly filed, the Court concludes
that this matter can and should be open to the public to the
greatest extent possible. The Court sees no reason to seal
the entire Petition or any portion of this Memorandum Opinion
and Order. It is also unnecessary to seal the exhibits in
their entirety simply because they contain or refer to
confidential information. First, generalized business
interests in confidentiality simply "do not rise to
the level of the privacy and property interests that courts
have permitted to outweigh the public's right of
access." See In re McCormick & Co., Misc.
No. 15-1825, 2017 WL 2560911, at *2 (D.D.C. June 13, 2017);
cf. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. FTC, 710
F.2d 1165, 1179 (6th Cir. 1983). This is particularly so
where trade secrets, pricing, and other sensitive information
regarding business practices or strategies may be redacted.
See In re McCormick & Co., 2017 WL 2560911, at
*2; Fudali v. Pivotal Corp., 623 F.Supp.2d 25, 28
(D.D.C. 2009). Furthermore, the parties' mutual desire
for confidentiality, without more, does not justify the
sealing of the entire substantive record of the case. See
Grvnberg v. BP P.L.C.. 205 F.Supp.3d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2016)
(explaining that even if disclosure would violate the terms
of the parties' settlement and confidentiality
agreements, such agreements between private parties "do
not dictate whether documents can be filed under seal"
(citing In re Fort Totten Metrorail Cases, 960
F.Supp.2d 2, 9-11 (D.D.C. 2013))); see also Am. Prof.
Agency v. NASW Assurance Serv., 121 F.Supp.3d 21, 25
(D.D.C. 2013); Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v.
FTC. 710 F.2d at 1180.
it appears that the exhibits to applicant's Petition do
include some potentially sensitive business information,
including rates and schedules, but the filings otherwise do
not warrant sealing from the public. The Court thus sees no
reason why the Petition itself should not be made publicly
available in full, nor any reason why the exhibits thereto
should not be made generally available, with only the most
sensitive information redacted. The Court is confident that a
more rigorous examination undertaken in good faith will lead
to a more tailored and appropriate proposal for redaction.
Accordingly, it is hereby
that, with respect to the Petition itself and this Memorandum
Opinion and Order, the Court will direct the Clerk's
Office to lift the seal in its entirety unless a supplement
to applicant's motion is filed on or before October 23,
2017, demonstrating good cause for the temporary seal to
remain in place; and it is
ORDERED that the parties shall confer regarding the
Petition's exhibits and submit proposed redactions to ...