District Court in Virgin Islands Calls Into Question the Efficacy of Stipulated Confidentiality Orders

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“In the Stipulated Confidentiality Order, the parties agree that certain categories of documents will be designated as confidential. If documents are so designated, the Stipulated Confidentiality Order requires that ‘if filed, the documents shall be filed under seal and shall remain sealed while in the Office of the Clerk as long as they retain their status as stamped “Confidential” documents.’  The Stipulated Confidentiality Order contains a mechanism pursuant to which either party may challenge a confidentiality designation by the other party by requesting the Court to decide whether a particular document should be deemed confidential. However, in the absence of a challenge by either party, the Stipulated Confidentiality Order apparently requires the Court to accept the parties’ confidentiality designation without question; accept the document for filing under seal; and keep the document sealed as long as it retains its status as confidential. The Court finds that this approach to the sealing of documents would be contrary to law.

“Court-approved confidentiality agreements or other confidentiality orders entered by courts must comport with the public right of access to judicial records….

“To the extent that the Court-approved Stipulated Confidentiality Order here contains a provision which requires the Court to permit the parties to file documents … under seal simply because the parties have designated the documents as confidential, the Court finds that such provision is contrary to law and is, therefore, void.

 

Memorandum Opinion and Order, Coto v. Saeborne Virgin Islands [Rec. Doc. 74] (D.V.I. Dec. 10, 2015).

 

(See also, e.g., Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772, 785-786 and 792 (3d Cir. 1994); City of Hartford v. Chase, 942 F.2d 130, 136 (2d Cir. 1991); Glenmede Trust Co. v. Thompson, 56 F.3d 476, 483 n.11 (3d Cir. 1995))

 

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