United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
BRYAN MOORE, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion to Vacate Order (Rec.
Doc. 70) filed by intervenors Capital City Press,
LLC, doing business as The Advocate, and WWL-TV,
Inc. (“Movants”). Plaintiffs filed an opposition
(Rec. Doc. 82) that was untimely per the local rules,
although it was filed before the Motion was submitted before
the Court. Rather than filing a reply to the opposition,
Movants filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiffs'
opposition as untimely (Rec. Doc. 88), which
Plaintiffs opposed (Rec. Doc. 94). Considering the Motions,
the legal memoranda, the record, and the law, the Court finds
that the Motion to Strike should be
DENIED and the Motion to Vacate
Order should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
in this case are several former sheriff's deputies who
allege they were illegally terminated by the elected sheriff
of St. Tammany Parish for supporting the candidate who lost
the election. On July 30, 2018, three of the ten plaintiffs,
David Hanson, Sr., David Hanson, Jr. and Tammy Hanson, moved
for leave to file under seal (Rec. Doc. 52) a motion to sever
and stay claims (Rec. Doc. 67). On August 15, 2018, the Court
held a status conference, at which it granted the motion and
allowed the parties to brief the motion to sever and stay
under seal. (Rec. Doc. 57). The Court ultimately denied the
motion to sever and stay in an unsealed order with reasons.
(Rec. Doc. 69).
intervened and now argue that this Court's August 15,
2018 order sealing the motion to sever and stay violates the
public's right of access to court records and proceedings
under the United States Constitution and federal precedent.
(Rec. Doc. 70-1 at 3). Following this Court's denial of
the motion to sever and stay, David Hanson, Sr., David
Hanson, Jr. and Tammy Hanson voluntarily dismissed their
ARGUMENTS AND APPLICABLE LAW
core of Movants' argument is that there is a presumption
in favor of access to court filings that the Plaintiffs have
failed to rebut. Indeed, “the public has a common law
right to inspect and copy judicial records.” S.E.C.
v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d 845, 848 (5th Cir. 1993)
(quoting Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435
U.S. 589, 597 (1978)). “However, the public's
common law right is not absolute.” Id.
District courts enjoy supervisory power over their own
records and files, see Nixon, 435 U.S. at 597, and
the public's interest in transparency is sometimes
outweighed by the other factors relevant to a particular
case. Thus, district courts must balance competing interests.
Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d at 848. While engaging in
balancing, the Court keeps in mind that from the start, the
scales tip in favor of access. See Federal Savings &
Loan Ins. Corp. v. Blain, 808 F.2d 395, 399 (5th Cir.
1987) (“The district court's discretion to seal the
record of judicial proceedings is to be exercised
urge a public interest in the motion to sever and stay based
on a series of reports published by Movants. In one article,
The Advocate reported that a Grand Jury had served a subpoena
on the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office seeking documents
relating to a work-release facility that had been privatized
by former Sheriff Jack Strain. According to the article, among
the documents sought were the calendars or planners and
personnel records of David Hanson, Sr., one of the plaintiffs
who moved to sever and stay his claims against Sheriff Smith.
Id. Thus, “[w]ith a Grand Jury Investigation
occurring and the public's interest in that
investigation, extremely high, Movants aver that the Motion
to Sever and Stay should be unsealed.” (Rec. Doc. 70-1
argued in their original motion to seal that the common law
right of access was must give way to the specific prejudice
Plaintiffs would suffer if the content of the motion to sever
and stay were to be revealed. (Rec. Doc. 52-1). In opposition
though, Plaintiffs do not attempt to argue that balancing
weighs in their favor. They argue first that any public
interest in in the motion to sever is moot because the
plaintiffs who filed the motion have dismissed their claims.
Second, they argue that Movants improperly delayed in
intervening and opposing the sealing the motion to sever and
stay. If they had timely done so, say Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs
could have taken advantage of Local Rule 5.6, which provides
procedural requirements for parties who request that
documents or exhibits be filed under seal. In relevant part,
Local Rule 5.6(D) states:
If the motion to file under seal is denied, the movant may
file another motion to remove the document(s) from the record
within seven days. If no such motion is timely filed, the
document(s) must be filed as a public record.
argue that, given the alleged newsworthiness of the case,
intervenors must have had notice of Plaintiff's filings
but did not timely intervene when the motion to seal was
pending. Plaintiffs argue that the Movants' later
intervention therefore deprives them of a right they have
under the local rules.
argue that the opposition should be stricken from the record
as untimely. (Rec. Doc. 88-2). They point out that Local Rule
7.5 states that a memorandum in opposition must be filed at
least eight days in advance of a contested motion's
submission date, which was ...