United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JOE SNOW, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SEQUIUM ASSET SOLUTIONS, LLC a Georgia limited liability company, Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER
L. Pryor United States Magistrate Judge Southern District of
matter comes before the Court on the Parties' Joint
Motion for Entry of Stipulated Protective Order (Dkt. 24).
The Motion has been referred to the Undersigned for a ruling.
The parties' proposed protective order seeks to protect
“personal information, including the information
protected by Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2, account numbers, account data,
systems data, proprietary data, systems data, financial data,
including net worth information, financial statements and
other financial statements.” (Dkt. 24-1 at 1).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), litigants are
permitted to seek protective orders to guard against public
disclosure of relevant and discoverable material. Courts have
a duty, however, to ensure that all proposed protective
orders strike a proper balance between the public's
interest in accessing non-confidential information and the
parties' interest in maintaining confidentiality with
regard to materials unsuited for public disclosure.
Citizens First Nat. Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins.
Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999). Here, the
Parties maintain that this procedural device is necessary to
protect the confidentiality of particularly sensitive
information. Before issuing the requested protective order,
the Court must independently determine whether “good
cause” exists to issue the order. Pierson v.
Indianapolis Power & Light Co., 205 F.R.D. 646, 647
(S.D. Ind. 2002); see also, Citizens, 178
F.3d at 944-45; see also, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(G).
A finding of good cause must be based on a particular factual
demonstration of potential harm, not on conclusory
statements. 8 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, &
Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 2035, at 483-86 (2d ed. 1994). Without this
independent determination of good cause, the Court
essentially gives the Parties carte blanche to seal
or protect whatever information they desire. See Hamilton
v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 204 F.R.D. 420, 422
(S.D. Ind. 2001) (citing Citizens, 178 F.3d at 945).
When reviewing a proposed protective order this Court must
(1) the information sought to be protected falls within a
legitimate category of confidential information, (2) the
information or category sought to be protected is properly
described or demarcated, (3) the parties know the defining
elements of the applicable category of confidentiality and
will act in good faith in deciding which information
qualifies thereunder, and (4) the protective order explicitly
allows any party and any interested member of the public to
challenge the sealing of particular documents.
Pierson, 205 F.R.D. at 647 (citing
Citizens, 178 F.3d at 946); see also Brown v.
Auto. Components Holdings, LLC, No.
1:06-cv-1802-RLY-TAB, 2008 WL 2477588 (S.D. Ind. June 17,
2008). The Court's evaluation of a proposed protective
order need not be made on a document-by-document basis, if
the Court is able to determine from the language of the
proposed order that the parties know which category of
information is legitimately confidential and that the parties
are acting in good faith in deciding which documents should
be protected. Citizens, 178 F.3d at 946. Using
qualifiers such as “private, ”
“confidential, ” or “proprietary” to
describe the protected information, without more description,
fails to assure the Court that the parties will be making
good faith and accurate designations of information.”
Pierson, 205 F.R.D. at 647.
Court does not find good cause at this time to approve the
parties' proposed protective order. The request to
protect “account data, systems data, proprietary data,
systems data, financial data, including net worth
information, financial statements and other financial
statements” is too vague, and “fails to instill
confidence in the Court that the parties will know how to
properly designate protected information.
closed categories of information must be explicitly
delineated to satisfy the Seventh Circuit's requirements
for protective orders.” Brown v. Swagway, No.
3:15-cv- 588-JD-MGG, 2017 WL 6816493 at *2 (N.D. Ind. Aug.
17, 2017) (citing Pierson, 205 F.R.D. at 647); see
also Simms v. New Penn Fin. LLC, No.
3:15-cv-263-MGG, 2017 WL 3297779 at *4 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 2,
2017) (“proposed protective orders defining categories
of confidential information only with qualifiers such as . .
. ‘proprietary' fail to assure the court that the
parties know what constitutes confidential
Court struggles to comprehend a document that wouldn't
fall under account, systems, proprietary, or financial data
in this type of case, a potential class action involving the
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Furthermore, the Parties
list “systems data” and “financial
statements” twice. Irrespective of whether those two
categories are listed twice due to oversight or because they
actually reference different documents, ambiguity does not
lend itself to an effective protective order. If the Parties
wish to more clearly define “account data, systems
data, proprietary data, systems data, financial data,
including net worth information, financial statements and
other financial statements” they may, after conferring
in good faith, file another protective order for the
Court's consideration. Accordingly, the Court
DENIES the Parties' protective order
(Dkt. 24). So ORDERED.
 Although pretrial discovery is usually
conducted in private, the Seventh Circuit has endorsed a
presumption of public access to discovery materials. See,
Felling v. Knight, IP 01-0571-C-T/K, 2001 WL
1782360, *2 (S.D. Ind. ...