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Hogan v. Buck

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

July 25, 2019

KIMBERLY D. HOGAN, Administrator of the Estate of Amanda Yvonne Hogan, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF ASA B. BUCK, III, and CAPTAIN DANIEL KING, in their individual and official capacities, CARTERET COUNTY, CARTERET COUNTY DETENTION OFFICERS WILLIE JOHNSON, MELISSA BRAZIE, TAMIRYA FARRAR, TAYTIANA TAYLOR aka TAYTIANNA TAYLOR, MARY GEORGE, CATHY JONES, MELISSA KING, CAROL LOCKETT, in their individual and official capacities, SARAH H. PARDUE and JESSICA L. SAUCIER, in their official and individual capacities, SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC., and TRAVELERS CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court upon the Parties' Joint Motion to Seal the proposed Settlement Agreement and Disbursement ledger in this action. [DE-67]

         Findings of Fact

         1. This case arises out of the suicide of Amanda Hogan on December 7, 2015 from an attempt she made when she was incarcerated at the Carteret County Detention Center.

         2. Amanda Hogan was married to Kerry Rey at the time of her death and had two minor children, who are still minors.

         3. This action commenced on December 6, 2017 with the filing of the Complaint. The minor children are not parties to the action and have not been named in any court filing in this action.

         4. The proposed sealed documents refer to the minor children by their initials only.

         5. The use of initials alone does not adequately protect the minor children's identify because the full name of their late mother is in the caption of this action and the full name of their father is in the proposed sealed documents.

         6. The proposed sealed documents are the proposed settlement agreement and proposed disbursement ledger, which contain the details of the total settlement amount and how all the proceeds are be disbursed.

         7. The instant Motion to Seal is made jointly by all the parties to this action.

         Conclusions of Law

         When considering a Motion to Seal, district courts must give the public notice of the request to seal and a reasonable opportunity to challenge the request. See In re Knight Publ'g, 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir. 1984). The filing of a litigant's Motion to Seal, such as the parties' Joint Motion to Seal [DE-___], is sufficient to provide public notice and opportunity to challenge the request to seal. See id. The court must also consider less drastic alternatives to sealing, if any. See id. Finally, the court must identify whether the First Amendment or common law rights of access apply and, if so, whether applicable counterbalancing privacy interests may overcome such public rights of access. See id.

         The Minors' Privacy Interests Overcome the Common Law Right of Access

         Under the common law right of access, there is a presumptive right for the public to inspect and copy all "judicial records." See Stone v. Univ. of Md., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988). Courts have held that documents reviewed in connection with a motion for court approval of a settlement constitute "judicial records" and are subject to the common law right of access. See White v. Bonner, No. 4:10-CV-105-F, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118038, 2010 WL 4625770, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Nov. 4, 2010) (applying the common law right of access to the parties' Motion to Seal their settlement agreement in a wrongful death action). The common law right of access can be overcome if the parties' privacy interests outweigh the public interest in access. See Stone, 855 F.2d at 180. Here, the parties' settlement agreement contains specific dollar amounts of settlement funds allotted to each ...


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