United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
R. CHERRY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Seal
Exhibits or for Protective Order [DE 4], filed by Defendant
Judge Thomas Hakes on December 11, 2017.
District of Indiana Local Rule 5-3 provides that “[n]o
document will be maintained under seal in the absence of an
authorizing statute, Court rule, or Court order.” N.D.
Ind. L.R. 5-3(a). The general presumption is that judicial
records are public, but this can be overridden when
“the property and privacy interests of the litigants .
. . predominate in the particular case.” Citizens
First Nat'l Bank v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d
943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999). The bar is quite high: “[a]ny
step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from
public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat
and requires rigorous justification” by the Court.
Hicklin Eng'g, L.C. v. Bartell, 439 F.3d 346,
348 (7th Cir. 2006). A motion to file documents under seal
must justify the claim of secrecy, analyzing the applicable
legal criteria. See Citizens First, 178 F.3d at 945.
Further, the decision of whether good cause exists to file a
document under seal rests solely with the Court. Id.
(“The determination of good cause cannot be elided by
allowing the parties to seal whatever they want, for then the
interest in publicity will go unprotected unless the media
are interested in the case and move to unseal.”).
asks the Court to seal Exhibits A, B, C, D, F, I, and L to
the Complaint in their entirety on the basis that the
exhibits contain “confidential information.” (ECF
4, p. 1). However, Defendant does not explain what
information within each exhibit is confidential or how the
information is confidential within the standard set forth by
the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Rather, Defendant
asserts generally that the exhibits are “communications
relating to court business between Judge Hakes and Ms.
Malone, an employee of the Huntington Superior Courts.”
(ECF 4, p. 2). Defendant has also redacted specific portions
of several exhibits on the basis that they contain
“confidential” information. From the notice of
removal and from the state court file stamp on the unredacted
exhibits filed under seal in this court, it appears that
these exhibits were not redacted when originally filed by
Plaintiff and that Defendant redacted the exhibits before
removing the case to this Court.
Court's review of unredacted Exhibits A, B, C, D, F, I,
J, and L, as set forth below, shows that the exhibits are
almost entirely personal messages related to the allegations
of the Complaint and that there is no basis to seal any
portion of the exhibits with two exceptions.
A is a personal message chain as well as a few email messages
between Defendant and Plaintiff primarily on personal topics
and not related to court business. The few references to
court business are vague and non-case specific. Having
reviewed the redactions, there is no basis to seal any part
of Exhibit A.
B is a personal email from Defendant to Plaintiff related to
the subject matter of the Complaint. It contains no court
business. There is no basis to seal Exhibit B.
C is a personal email from Defendant to Plaintiff with
approximately half of the text redacted. The unredacted
portion of the text is related to the subject matter of the
Complaint and contains no court business. However, having
reviewed the redactions, the Court finds that there is a
basis to maintain under seal a portion of the redacted
material as confidential employment information. The Court
orders Defendant to modify the redactions to Exhibit C to
maintain all the redactions except for the
following three sentences for which the redactions shall be
removed: “Am I comfortable in the courthouse. . . not
by a long shot. When you closed the chamber door yesterday,
it was the first time I allowed that in 2 months.”;
“When I said I am probably going to quit, I meant it .
. . . Nell says no, you are not a quitter.”; and
“You may be better off over in Superior. . . I
don't know how long I will last or what the next two
years will bring.” Exhibit D is a personal message
chain between Defendant and Plaintiff primarily on personal
topics and not related to court business. The only reference
to court business is the years of Plaintiff's employment
history, which is not confidential. Having reviewed the
redactions, there is no basis to seal any portion of Exhibit
F is a personal email from Defendant to Plaintiff that is not
related to court business. There is no basis to seal Exhibit
I is a personal email chain between Defendant and Plaintiff.
The references to Plaintiff's work is not sensitive.
Having reviewed the redactions, there is no basis to seal any
portion of Exhibit I.
J contains the names and email addresses of individuals in a
work-related context. These individuals are not involved in
this litigation, and their names and email addresses should
remain redacted. However, there is no basis for redacting the
date, name, and location of professional training sessions.
Accordingly, the Court orders Defendant to modify the
redactions to Exhibit J to maintain only the
redaction of the email addresses in the “To” and
“Cc” lines on page 1 and the names other than
Heather's on pages 1 and 2 and to remove the
redaction of the date, name, and location of the training
L is a personal email from Defendant to Plaintiff. Having
reviewed the redactions, there is no basis to redact any
portion of Exhibit L.
on the foregoing, the Court hereby GRANTS in
part and DENIES in part
Defendant's Motion to Seal Exhibits or for Protective
Order [DE 4]. The Court ORDERS Defendant to
FILE as one docket entry, with a link to the
Complaint, unredacted Exhibits A, ...