United States District Court, S.D. New York
COVENTRY CAPITAL U.S. LLC, Plaintiff,
EEA LIFE SETTLEMENTS, INC., et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
PITMAN, United States Magistrate Judge
letter dated October 17, 2017 Coventry Capital U.S. LLC
("Coventry") seeks an Order declaring that it may
publicly file an unredacted copy of the complaint and the
exhibit attached thereto. Defendants oppose plaintiff's
application and cross-move for an Order directing that the
complaint be filed under seal or, in the alternative, that
additional material be redacted from the publicly available
version of the complaint. For the reasons set forth below,
plaintiff's application is granted and defendants'
application is denied.
a diversity action arising out of the parties'
unsuccessful efforts to negotiate the sale of a portfolio of
life insurance policies from defendant EEA Life Settlements,
Inc. ("EEA") to plaintiff. Prior to entering into
those negotiations plaintiff and EEA entered into an
agreement dated April 27, 2017 which provided, among other
things, that the parties to the negotiations would not
disclose "Confidential Information." The April 27
agreement defined "Confidential Information" as:
all non-public or proprietary information, know-how and
materials (whether technical, commercial, financial or
otherwise and whether disclosed in writing, electronically,
orally, visually or otherwise) which have been or may be
disclosed by or on behalf of [EEA] to [Coventry] in relation
to the Potential Transaction and relating to [EEA] and/or its
business, products or marketing activities, together with the
proposal, either party's interest in the proposal, the
existence and the terms of this Agreement and any discussions
and negotiations (including the status thereof) between the
parties or their Related Parties, and with respect to the
portfolio of life policies held by [EEA] or its subsidiaries,
all personal identifying information relating to the
underlying insureds (including, without limitation, dates of
birth, social security numbers, medical records, addresses,
phone numbers, passport numbers and driving licence numbers)
negotiations for the sale of the policies ultimately
foundered, and Coventry has now asserted claims for fraud and
breach of contract.
effort to avoid a claim that it has breached the
confidentiality agreement, Coventry has heavily redacted the
publicly available version of the complaint on file with the
Clerk of the Court. The redactions have placed virtually all
of the allegations concerning the specifics of the
parties' negotiations beyond the public's view.
not only oppose the motion to un-redact the complaint but
claim that Coventry's redactions do not go far enough.
Defendants contend that the entire complaint should be placed
under seal or further redacted.
documents, such as complaints, "are presumptively public
so that the federal courts 'have a measure of
accountability' and so that the public may 'have
confidence in the administration of justice.'"
Bernstein v. Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman
LLP, 814 F.3d 132, 139 (2d Cir. 2016), quoting
United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1048 (2d Cir.
There is a strong presumption of public access to
"judicial documents, " that is, such "items
filed with the court that are relevant to the performance of
the judicial function and useful in the judicial
process." See In re Terrorist Attacks on September
11, 2001, 454 F.Supp.2d 220, 222 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)
(quoting SEC v. The Street.com, 273 F.3d 222, 231
(2d Cir. 2001)). "Accordingly, a party seeking a
protective order sealing trial, other court hearings, or
motions and accom- panying exhibits filed with the court must
satisfy a more demanding standard of good cause." In
re Terrorist Attacks, 454 F.Supp.2d at 222-23.
Std. Inv. Chartered. Inc. v. Nat' 1 Ass'n of
Sec. Dealers, Inc., 621 F.Supp.2d 55, 61 (S.D.N.Y. 2007)
(Kram, D.J.). "The common law right of public access to
judicial documents is firmly rooted in our nation's
history." Luaosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onandaga,
435 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 2006); accord In re Document
Technologies Litig., 17 Civ. 2405 (JSR), 17
Civ. 3433 (JSR), 17 Civ. 3917 (JSR), 2017 WL 4797903 at *1
(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2017) (Rakoff, D.J.).
In addition to the common law presumption of public access .
. ., courts have identified a similar, though more demanding,
presumption stemming from the First Amendment. See,
e.g., Lugosch, 435 F.3d at 124; Gambale [v.
Deutsche Bank AG, 377 F.3d 133, 140 & n.4 (2d Cir.
2004)]. The First Amendment's "qualified right of
access to judicial documents" is "a necessary
corollary of the capacity to attend the relevant proceedings.
" Hartford Courant Co. v. Pellegrino, 380 F.3d
83, 93 (2d Cir. 2004). Once a court has determined that
"the more stringent First Amendment framework applies,
continued sealing of the documents may be justified only with
specific, on-the-record findings that sealing ...