United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
CARRIE D. RANDA, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Defendant.
ORDER TO SEAL
W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Seal
her Opposition (DE 91), and its supporting exhibits, to
Defendant's Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Treating
Providers (DE 87). Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 79.2, Section
V.G of the Court's CM/ECF Policy Manual, and the
Court's Stipulated Protective Order (DE 44) and Consent
Protective Order (DE 65) entered in this action, and for the
following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.
March 11, 2019, the Court entered a Stipulated Protective
Order in this action. DE 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. Plaintiff, in turn, requested a
protective order to permit her to provide Defendant with
documents and information concerning or evidencing those
medical records relevant to her claims in this case.
Stipulated Protective Order provides for the designation of
certain “Confidential Material, ” including any
information and documents disclosed to Defendant by Plaintiff
during discovery concerning or evidencing Plaintiff's
medical records or medical condition. Id. ¶ 1.
Paragraph 8 of the Stipulated Protective Order sets forth the
procedure for the filing of “Confidential
Material” under seal. Id. ¶ 8.
August 1, 2019, the Court entered a Consent Protective Order
in this action. DE 65. Plaintiff sought entry of the Consent
Protective Order in order to her safeguard personal and
confidential medical information, including records produced
by her current and former health care providers in connection
with this litigation. Id. Pursuant to the Consent
Protective Order, if either party wishes to use such records
or their contents in a filing with the Court, or to include
in a court filing a deposition transcript that refers to the
contents of such records, then the filing party shall seek to
have that portion of the filing made under seal, and
contemporaneously the filing party shall file a motion to
seal that complies with Paragraph 8 of the Stipulated
Protective Order. Id.
October 31, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Exclude
Plaintiff's Treating Providers (DE 87) and supporting
Memorandum (DE 84) and exhibits (DE 88-1 to 88-8).
Defendant's Motion and supporting Memorandum and exhibits
contain or reference Plaintiff's sensitive and personal
medical information relevant to her claim for damages in this
action, including the identity of Plaintiff's health care
providers and their observations and conclusions during the
course of treatment of Plaintiff. Additionally, supporting
Exhibits C, D, and H (DE 88-3, 88-4, and 88-8) are marked
“CONFIDENTIAL - SUBJECT TO PROTECTIVE ORDER”
pursuant to the Stipulated Protective Order.
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)). For purposes
of his Motion to Seal, Defendant assumes that the First
Amendment presumption of access applies. For purposes of her
Motion to Seal her Opposition, Plaintiff does not concede
that this presumption applies.
information contained in Defendant's Motion and
supporting Memorandum and exhibits originates from
Plaintiff's medical records, which are designated
“CONFIDENTIAL - SUBJECT TO PROTECTIVE ORDER” in
this action and contain Plaintiff's sensitive and
confidential medical information. Plaintiff's Opposition,
likewise, has to discuss that information in order to respond
to Defendant's argument. The Government has a compelling
interest in ensuring the confidentiality of Plaintiff's
personal medical information in connection with its filings,
in ensuring that it refrains from publicly disclosing such
information, and in ensuring compliance with the Consent
Protective Order (DE 65) entered in this action. The
Government's compelling interest likewise extends to
Plaintiff's Opposition to the Government's Motion.
alternative to sealing-filing an unsealed version of
Plaintiff s Opposition and supporting exhibits-would be
insufficient to protect the Government's interest and
Plaintiffs interests in this case because it would require
the public disclosure of Plaintiffs personal and confidential
medical information. Because Plaintiffs personal and
confidential medical information is referenced throughout the
entirety of her Opposition, the redaction of portions of such
documents would be impractical and would not be sufficient to
safeguard Plaintiffs personal and confidential medical
evidenced by his assent to the Consent Protective Order (DE
65) and endorsement of the Stipulated Protective Order (DE
44), as well as his own Motion to Seal (DE 89), Defendant
does not object to the entry of an order sealing Plaintiffs
order to accommodate the Government's compelling
interest, the Plaintiffs interest in the confidentiality of
her health care information, and in accordance with the terms
of the Stipulated Protective Order and the Consent Protective
Order, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff leave to
file under seal her Opposition to ...