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Comer v. McCracken County Detention Center

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

February 9, 2019

BEN COMER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
McCRACKEN COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, et al. DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King Magistrate Judge

         Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Lanny for ruling on all discovery motions (Docket # 25). The parties submitted two Agreed Protective Orders (Docket # 26 & #27). For the reasons set forth below, the Court declines to enter the Agreed Protective Order at Docket #26 for failure to comply with the “good cause” requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, and the sealing requirements under the Local Rules. The Court will enter the Agreed Order at Docket #27 because it is limited to documents already protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), codified primarily at Titles 18, 26, and 42 U.S.C. (2003) and does not pre-judge whether documents may be filed under seal.

         Good Cause Requirement

         This Court has increasingly scrutinized stipulated motions for protective orders that do not make the necessary showing of good cause required by the Rules of Civil Procedure and case authority. See Bussell v. Elizabethtown Independent School Dist., 3:17-cv-00605-GNS (W.D. Ky. Oct. 23, 2018) (Edwards, J.) (discussing why the Court will enter the second proposed agreed protective order because it develops why a protective order is necessary) (Pacer); see also Wellmeyer v. Experian Info. Sols., 3:18-cv-94-RGJ (W.D. Ky. May 30, 2018) (Pacer); Middleton v. Selectrucks of America, LLC, 3:17-cv-602-RGJ (W.D. Ky. Sept. 21, 2018) (Pacer); Mitcham v. Intrepid U.S.A., Inc., 3:17-cv-00703-CHB (W.D. Ky. Oct. 1, 2018) (Boom, J.) (Pacer); Roberson v. KentuckyOne Health, Inc., 3:18-cv-00183-CRS-RSE (Aug. 29, 2018) (Edwards, J.) (Pacer); Savidge v. Pharm-Save, Inc., 3:17-cv-000186-CHB (W.D. Ky. July 9, 2018) (Whalin, J.) (Pacer); Effinger v. GLA Collection Co., 3:17-cv-000750-DJH (W.D. Ky. March 28, 2018) (Lindsay, J.) (Pacer); Fleming v. Barnes, 3:16-cv-264-JHM (W.D. Ky. Feb. 27, 2017) (Whalin, J.) (Pacer).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)(G), “[t]he court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including . . . requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way….” Good cause exists when the party moving for the protective order “articulate[s] specific facts showing ‘clearly defined and serious injury' resulting from the discovery sought….” Nix v. Sword, 11 Fed. App'x 498, 500 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Avirgan v. Hull, 118 F.R.D. 252, 254 (D.D.C. 1987)). For example, in determining whether to grant a protective order in a trade secret case, the court considered the following factors:

(1) the extent to which the information is known outside of [the] business;
(2) the extent to which it is known by employees and others involved in [the] business;
(3) the extent of measures taken . . . to guard the secrecy of the information;
(4) the value of the information to [the business] and to [its] competitors;
(5) the amount of effort or money expended . . . in developing the information;
(6) the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others.

Williams v. Baptist Healthcare Sys., No. 3:16-CV-00236-CRS, 2018 WL 989546, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 20, 2018) (citing Nash-Finch Co. and Super Food Servs., Inc. v. Casey's Foods, Inc., 2016 WL 737903, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 23, 2016) (citations omitted)). “The burden of establishing good cause for a protective order rests with the movant.” Nix v. Sword, 11 Fed. App'x 498, 500 (6th Cir. May 24, 2011); see also In re Skelaxin Antitrust Litig., 292 F.R.D. 544, 549 (E.D. Tenn. 2013) (“To show good cause, the moving party must articulate specific facts that show a clearly defined and serious injury resulting from the discovery sought; mere conclusory statements will not be sufficient.”).

         Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure affords the Court with broad discretion to grant or deny protective orders. Parker & Gamble Co. v. Banker's Trust Co., 78 F.3d 219, 227 (6th Cir. 1996). Because entry of a protective order is contrary to the basic policy in favor of broad discovery, the party that seeks a protective order has a heavy burden to show substantial justification for withholding information from the public. See Williams, 2018 WL 989546, at *2; see also, Proctor & Gamble Co. v. Banker's Trust Co., 78 F.3d 219, 227 (6th Cir. 1996) (“While District Courts have the discretion to issue protective orders, that discretion is limited by the careful dictates of Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 and is circumscribed by a long-established tradition which values public access to court proceedings.”); Meyer Goldberg, Inc. of Lorain v. Fisher Foods, Inc., 823 F.2d 159, 162 (6th Cir. 1987) (“As a general proposition, pretrial discovery must take place in the public unless compelling reasons exist for denying public access to the proceedings.”).

         With regard to the agreed protective order tendered by the parties at docket number 26, the parties have not met their burden in showing that the documents they seek to protect and deem as confidential should be shielded from the public. The tendered Order does not specify the documents that require protection; rather, the Order outlines generally what could be considered confidential, such as “material that contains a trade secret, protected health information, personally identifiable information of non-parties, or any other ...


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