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In re Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 11, 2019

IN RE Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation,


          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge.

         Defendants have filed a motion to enforce a protective order over certain trial exhibits. Doc. 13126. The motion is fully briefed (Docs. 13433, 13494), and oral argument has not been requested. The Court will deny the motion.

         I. Background.

         Early in this case, the Court entered a stipulated protective order treating certain information produced by the parties during discovery as confidential pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)(G). Doc. 269.[1] The protective order imposes various limitations on the use of confidential information produced pursuant to the order (id. ¶¶ 12-20), but does not apply to the use of such information at trial (id. ¶ 28).

         Following the Booker trial in May 2018, Defendants moved for an order sealing certain exhibits that had been admitted into evidence during the trial. Doc. 11010 at 2. The Court denied the motion because Defendants had failed to satisfy the compelling reasons standard for sealing judicial records, see Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006), and had waived the right to have the exhibits sealed. Doc. 11642. Because Defendants obtained no order sealing the exhibits before they were admitted into evidence at trial, the Court found the exhibits to be part of the public record and no longer confidential or subject to being sealed. Id. at 2 (citing Phillips v. C. R. Bard, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00344-RCJ-WGC, 2015 WL 3485039, at *2 (D. Nev. June 1, 2015) (finding waiver where Bard “made no motion to seal the exhibits or testimony at the public trial”); Littlejohn v. Bic Corp., 851 F.2d 673, 677-78 (3d Cir. 1988) (“It is well established that the release of information in open court ‘is a publication of that information and, if no effort is made to limit its disclosure, operates as a waiver of any rights a party had to restrict its future use.'” (citation omitted)); Carnegie Mellon Univ. v. Marvell Tech. Grp., Ltd., No. CIV.A. 09-290, 2013 WL 1336204, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 29, 2013) (same)). The Court noted that this finding was consistent with the provision in the protective order that information deemed publicly available “includes documents that have been . . . entered as an exhibit during trial not under seal.” Id. (quoting Doc. 269 ¶ 34).

         Defendants sought reconsideration, arguing that the protective order remained in effect and precluded Plaintiffs from disclosing to the public any exhibit admitted into evidence but not openly disclosed during trial or made part of the Court's electronic docket. Doc. 11766 at 5-6. The Court agreed that Defendants had preserved their right to file a post-trial motion to seal, but otherwise denied their request for relief. Defendants failed to show that the Court erred in finding a waiver of the right to seal trial exhibits. Defendants also failed to identify specific exhibits that were admitted into evidence but not published in open court. Doc. 12069 at 3-4 & n.1.

         Defendants now identify 80 exhibits admitted into evidence in the Jones and Hyde trials that they claim were not fully disclosed during trial. Doc. 13126-1 at 9-11. Defendants contend that the “unused” portions of these exhibits never became publicly available and therefore remain confidential and subject to the protective order. Doc. 13126 at 2. Plaintiffs counter that the protective order has no application because once an unredacted exhibit is admitted into evidence at a public trial and not sealed, the entire exhibit - regardless of which pages were actually displayed or discussed in open court - becomes a judicial record to which the public has a right of access. Doc. 13433 at 2-8.

         II. Discussion.

         The Court must answer several questions. First, are the exhibits and portions of exhibits addressed in Defendants' motion judicial records subject to the public's interest in judicial proceedings? Second, are the exhibits subject to the parties' stipulated protective order? Third, did Defendants waive any right to have the documents sealed by permitting them to be admitted into evidence? Fourth, if no such waiver occurred, have Defendants shown compelling reasons to seal the exhibits now?

         A. Exhibits Admitted into Evidence at Trial Are Judicial Records.

         “Historically, courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 & n. 7 (1978)). This common law right is based in part on the strong “public interest in understanding the judicial process.” Id. at 1178-79 (citations omitted). “[T]he resolution of a dispute on the merits, whether by trial or summary judgment, is at the heart of [this] interest[.]” Id. at 1179; see Nat'l Polymer Prods., Inc. v. Borg-Warner Corp., 641 F.2d 418, 421-23 (6th Cir. 1981) (discussing the line of Supreme Court cases emphasizing the importance of public trials to our system of justice and recognizing the right to publish information made part of the record in a judicial proceeding); Siedle v. Putnam Inv., Inc., 147 F.3d 7, 10 (1st Cir. 1998) (“Courts long have recognized ‘that public monitoring of the judicial system fosters the important values of quality, honesty and respect for our legal system, ” and this “recognition has given rise to a presumption that the public has a common-law right of access to judicial documents” (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 597)).

         “[W]hat makes a document a judicial record and subjects it to the common law right of access is the role it plays in the adjudicatory process.” United States v. El- Sayegh, 131 F.3d 158, 163 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (explaining that “the public has less of a need for access to court records attached only to non-dispositive motions because those documents are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action”) (citations omitted).[2] Case law clearly recognizes that transcripts of court proceedings and exhibits presented in open court constitute judicial records for purposes of the public right of access.[3]

         While exhibits that are not openly displayed or discussed in court, but are admitted into evidence, may “present a somewhat closer question, ” Benedict v. Hankook Tire Co., 323 F.Supp.3d 747, 760 & n.14 (E.D. Va. 2018), courts have found that such exhibits become, “simply by virtue of that event, ” judicial records subject to the public right of access. Level 3 Commc'ns, LLC v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 611 F.Supp.2d 572, 589 (E.D. Va. 2009) (citing cases); see Certusview Techs., LLC v. S&N Locating Servs., LLC, 198 F.Supp.3d 568, 588 n.12 (E.D. Va. 2016) (“[T]o the extent that the parties . . . have entered such documents into evidence, the Court considers the parties' arguments regarding the need for such information to be sealed to have been waived.”); Dees v. Cty. of San Diego, 302 F.Supp.3d 1168, 1173 n.1 (S.D. Cal. 2017) (denying post-trial motions to seal because the information in the documents became part of the public record when the exhibits were admitted into evidence during trial).

         Defendants argue that the public has no interest in confidential information contained in the trial exhibits because the information has only minimal relevance to claims in the Jones and Hyde trials. Doc. 13126 at 2, 7-8. But the Court's orders admitting the exhibits into evidence have legal significance. As one court has explained, the public right of access to exhibits “sprang into existence upon their being offered into evidence for the jury's consideration at trial[.]” Level 3 Commc'ns, 611 F.Supp. at 588; see Benedict, 323 F.Supp.3d at 760 & n.14 (finding that “trial exhibits admitted into evidence constitute judicial records, ” and noting ...

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