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Pullman v. Alpha Media Publishing, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 23, 2014

JACLINN PULLMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ALPHA MEDIA PUBLISHING, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. CROTTY, District Judge.

The Court has previously upheld Magistrate Judge Netburn's Report and Recommendation enforcing the parties' settlement agreement. Order, Sept. 10, 2014, ECF No. 224. The remaining issue before the Court concerns Defendants' motion to seal a limited portion of the record concerning the settlement details. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's application.

BACKGROUND[1]

On September 10, 2013, the parties appeared for a settlement conference in the underlying fraud action and reached an oral agreement. Disputes arose, however, when the parties sought to memorialize the agreement in writing. Magistrate Judge Netburn held a telephone conference with the parties on October 3, 2013 and ordered the parties to appear at a second settlement conference on October 29, 2013.

The parties also disputed the sealing of certain information on the record relating to the settlement. Magistrate Judge Netburn initially ordered a temporary seal on the parties' September 10 settlement conference transcript pursuant to Defendants' request, but a third party had already ordered the transcript and posted it on a publically available website prior to the order.

On November 6, 2013, Magistrate Judge Netburn ordered the sealing of the transcripts of the September 10, October 3, and October 29 conferences. The order also directed the parties not to attach the sealed transcripts to any motion or filing. Plaintiff opposed the motions to seal on November 15, 2013 and Defendants replied on November 22, 2013. On March 14, 2014, Magistrate Judge Netburn directed that the settlement amount remain sealed and redacted in any publically filed document; ordered the transcript from the October 29 conference to be sealed in its entirety; and directed the unsealing of the transcripts from the September 10 and October 3 conferences - except for any references to the settlement amount.

On March 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed objections and moved to set aside Magistrate Judge Netburn's March 14, 2014 order.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A district court can "modify or set aside any part of the [magistrate judge's nondispositive] order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." Fed. R. Civ. P 72(a). Objections that merely assert that a magistrate judge's decision was wrong or unfair will not satisfy the Court's clear error review under Rule 72(a). See Schoolfield v. Dep't of Corr., 1994 WL 119740, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 6, 1994) (discussing the scope of clear error review within the context of adopting a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation). Instead, the objections must leave the Court with a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Thompson v. Kean, 1996 WL 229887, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 6, 1996). While the Court affords pro se litigants some latitude in meeting these requirements, they are not "exempt from the rules of procedural [] law." DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F.Supp.2d 333, 342 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quotation omitted).

II. Analysis

A. The Court refuses to set aside the order sealing the settlement figure

Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge Netburn's order sealing the settlement figure because a member of the public accessed the docket and posted the figure on the Internet. Plaintiff contends that it was erroneous to seal an already published figure.

Magistrate Judge Netburn's order sealing the settlement figure contained a thorough analysis of the First Amendment and public access jurisprudence dealing with court documents. Although Defendants sought to seal the entire transcript from the September 10 settlement conference, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the transcript was a "judicial document" that enjoyed a presumption of public access. Mem. & Order 8-9, Mar. 14, 2014, ECF No. 207; see Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 2006) ("[T]he weight to be given the presumption of access must be governed by the role of the material at issue in the exercise of Article III judicial power and the resultant value of such information to those monitoring the federal ...


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