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 COURT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Seal
Excerpts of her Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”).
See DE 58. Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 79.2,
Section V.G of the Court's CM/ECF Policy Manual,
Paragraphs 6 & 8 of the Court's Stipulated Protective
Order (DE 44), and the consent of the parties,
Plaintiff's Motion is hereby GRANTED.
Court finds and concludes as follows:
March 11, 2019, the Court entered a Stipulated Protective
Order in this action.
DE 44. As appears of record, Defendant sought entry of the
Stipulated Protective Order to protect information disclosed
during the course of discovery concerning the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North
Carolina (“USAO”) that Defendant contends is
privileged and sensitive. See DE 44 & 55 at
January 31, 2019, Randa filed her proposed SAC with the
Court. See DE 31-1. The Court granted in part and
denied in part Randa's motion for leave to amend her
complaint; and on April 23, 2019, Randa filed her SAC in this
action. See DE 51. The SAC contains claims
referencing non-managerial AUSAs formerly or currently
employed at the USAO, management's treatment of those
AUSAs, Randa's work on certain criminal cases as an AUSA,
and various other matters.
order to avoid the inadvertent ascertainment of Confidential
Material by third parties, and for the Government to comply
with the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and other
obligations, Plaintiff seeks to seal limited excerpts of her
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 and criminal 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)). The
Court assumes, without deciding, that the First Amendment
guarantee of access applies to the complaint considered here,
but the Court determines that the equities of this matter
nevertheless permit the sealing of limited portions of
Court notes that Defendant William P. Barr, in his official
capacity as Attorney General of the United States Department
of Justice, joins in Plaintiff's Motion to Seal.
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, 5
U.S.C. § 552a, in connection to the filings in this
action. Plaintiff's proposed redactions are narrowly
tailored to protect those interests. Additionally, in light
of the redactions approved by the Court in Defendant's
Answer, Plaintiff's “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
on the foregoing, Plaintiff's Motion to Seal (DE 58) is
hereby GRANTED. Plaintiff is directed to
lodge her Proposed Redacted SAC (DE 58-1 & DE 58-2) on
the docket as a separate entry upon the filing of this Order.
The Clerk is directed to seal Randa's unredacted SAC (DE
51) as well as its attachment (DE 51-1). Nothing in this
Order alters the schedule and deadlines announced in the
Court's Case Management Order in this matter,
see DE ...