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Watkins v. Trust Under Will of Bullitt

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

July 19, 2017

LOWRY WATKINS, Plaintiff
v.
TRUST UNDER WILL OF WILLIAM MARSHALL BULLITT By and Through Its Trustee, PNC BANK, NA Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          COLIN LINDSAY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Introduction

         The Plaintiff, Lowry Watkins, moves to seal five documents currently filed under seal. (DN 98.) PNC Bank, N.A. and the Trust Under Will of William Marshall Bullitt by and Through Its Trustee, PNC Bank, N.A. (the “William Marshall Bullitt Trust”) (together, the “Defendants”) move to seal eleven documents currently filed under seal. (DN 100.)

         The Court will grant Watkins's motion to seal. The Court will grant in part and deny in part the Defendants' motion to seal.

         Background

         In July 2015, the Court entered an agreed protective order in this matter. (DN 53.) The Court noted that “there has been some disagreement about the terms of such an agreement.” (Id.) Also, the Court said, “discovery in this action will involve the disclosure and exchange of sensitive, proprietary, and confidential information.” (Id.) Following that order, the parties filed some documents under seal without accompanying motions to seal.

         On January 10, 2017, the Court ordered the parties to review the “documents filed under seal in this matter and consider whether those documents should remain under seal given the recent case law.” (DN 96, #1637.) If a party wished to maintain a document under seal, the party needed to file a motion to seal “analyzing ‘in detail, document by document, the propriety of secrecy, providing reasons and legal citations.'” (Id., #1638 (quoting Shane Grp., Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mich., 825 F.3d 299, 305 - 06[1] (6th Cir. 2016)). If a party determined that some documents could be unsealed, the party was to file a status report listing the documents to be unsealed. (Id., #1637.)

         Legal Standard

         “[T]he public is entitled to assess for itself the merits of judicial decisions.” 825 F.3d at 305. It therefore “has a strong interest in obtaining the information contained in the court record.” Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710 F.2d 1165, 1180 (6th Cir. 1983). This strong interest gives rise to a “‘strong presumption in favor of openness' as to court records.” 825 F.3d at 305 (quoting 710 F.2d at 1179); see also, Rudd Equip. Co. v. John Deere Constr. & Forestry Co., 834 F.3d 589, 593 (6th Cir. 2016).

         The proponent of sealing faces a “heavy” burden to overcome this presumption. 825 F.3d at 305. “In civil litigation, only trade secrets, information covered by a recognized privilege (such as the attorney-client privilege), and information required by statute to be maintained in confidence (such as the name of a minor victim of a sexual assault), is typically enough to overcome the presumption of access.” Id. at 308 (internal quotation marks omitted). “Only the most compelling reasons can justify non-disclosure of judicial records.” In Re Knoxville News-Sentinel Co., 723 F.2d 470, 476 (6th Cir. 1983).

         The proponent of sealing “must analyze in detail, document by document, the propriety of secrecy, providing reasons and legal citations.” Id. at 305 - 06 (internal quotation marks omitted). A court “that chooses to seal court records must set forth specific findings and conclusions ‘which justify nondisclosure to the public.'” Id. at 306 (quoting 710 F.2d at 1176). “And even where a party can show a compelling reason why certain documents or portions thereof should be sealed, the seal itself must be narrowly tailored to serve that reason.” 825 F.3d at 305.

         Analysis I.

         The Defendants seek to maintain a seal on the following documents:

o DN 70-5
o DN 70-7
o DN 70-10
o DN 70-11
o DN 72-3
o DN 75-1
o DN 75-2
o DN ...

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