United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
CARRIE D. RANDA, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice, Defendant.
W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion to Seal Excerpts of
Defendant's Answer to the Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”), filed by Defendant, William P. Barr, in
his official capacity as Attorney General of the U.S.
Department of Justice. Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 79.2,
Section V.G of the Court's CM/ECF Policy Manual, and
Paragraph 6 of the Court's Stipulated Protective Order
(ECF No. 44) entered in this action.
court finds as follows:
March 11, 2019, the Court entered a Stipulated Protective
Order in this action. ECF No. 44. Defendant sought entry of
the Stipulated Protective Order in order to provide Plaintiff
with information concerning or evidencing criminal
case-related communications related to the criminal cases to
which Plaintiff was previously assigned as an Assistant U.S.
Attorney (“AUSA”) and information concerning
other non-managerial AUSAs formerly or currently employed at
the U.S. Attorney's Office (“USAO”), the
disclosure of which may violate the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C.
§ 552a, the law enforcement privilege, the deliberative
process privilege, the attorney-client privilege, and/or the
work-product doctrine, absent the entry of a protective
order. Id. The Stipulated Protective Order provided
for the designation of certain “Confidential Material,
” including information concerning or evidencing
internal USAO documents related to the criminal cases to
which Plaintiff was previously assigned as an AUSA, as well
as the employment status and/or treatment of non-managerial
AUSAs (other than Plaintiff) formerly or currently employed
at the USAO. Id. ¶ 1. The Stipulated Protective
Order further provided for the public filing of documents
containing such information in redacted form, with the first
and last name of non-managerial AUSAs formerly or currently
employed at the USAO (excluding Plaintiff) redacted, and the
case name, case number, defendant name, and witness names
redacted from documents related to the cases to which
Plaintiff was previously assigned as an AUSA. Id.
April 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”) in this action. ECF No. 51. The SAC
contains numerous allegations regarding several
non-managerial AUSAs formerly or currently employed at the
USAO, the USAO's treatment of such AUSAs, and the
criminal cases to which Plaintiff was previously assigned as
an AUSA. Id.
order to fully respond to Plaintiff's allegations in
accordance with the terms of the Stipulated Protective Order
and in compliance with the Privacy Act and all applicable
privileges and protections, Defendant seeks leave to file
under seal limited excerpts of Defendant's Answer to the
SAC. The proposed redactions include the names of
non-managerial AUSAs, information concerning the employment
status and/or treatment of such AUSAs, and the names and case
numbers of specific criminal cases, case numbers, and
defendants referenced in the SAC.
common law and the First Amendment protect the public's
right of access to judicial records. Stone v. Univ. of
Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988).
Under the common law, the public enjoys a presumptive right
to inspect and copy judicial records and documents.
Id. (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications,
Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978)). This presumption,
however, may be overcome if competing interests outweigh the
public's interest in access. Id. Where access to
judicial documents is protected by the First Amendment,
“access may be denied only on the basis of a compelling
governmental interest, and only if the denial is narrowly
tailored to serve that interest.” Id. The
First Amendment guarantee of access has been extended to only
particular judicial records and documents, such as documents
filed in connection with a summary judgment motion in a civil
case. Id. (citing Rushford v. The New Yorker
Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988).
Government has a compelling interest in preserving the
confidentiality of non-public information related to current
and former employees of the USAO and the criminal cases
referenced in the SAC. The Government also has a compelling
interest in ensuring compliance with the Privacy Act and
other applicable privileges in connection with its filings.
The proposed redactions are narrowly tailored to protect
these important interests. Additionally, viewing the proposed
redactions in light of the overall content of Defendant's
Answer, “[t]he proposed redactions are modest, leaving
much of the content intact.” Charter Oak Fire Ins.
Co. v. Am. Capital, Ltd., Civ. No. 09-0100, 2015 WL
1242684, at *3 (D. Md. Mar. 17, 2015) (unpublished). Under
such circumstances, the proposed redactions are reasonable
and should be accepted. See id
on the foregoing, defendant's motion to seal (DE 53) is
GRANTED. The clerk is DIRECTED to lodge defendant's