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United States v. UCB, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; and THE STATES OF CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, LOUISIANA, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MONTANA, NEVADA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, OKLAHOMA, RHODE ISLAND, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WISCONSIN, and THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA; ex rel. WILLIAM NASH, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
UCB, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION

          Thomas P. Griesa United States District Judge

         William Nash, Jr., as relator and plaintiff in the above-captioned matter, moves to indefinitely maintain the seal on all documents filed in this case. Alternatively, Nash moves for leave to file a superseding complaint under the pseudonym "John Doe" and to redact any information that could reveal his identity to the public. In the event that the Court denies both of those requests, Nash further moves for leave to file partially redacted copies of the instant motion and supporting memoranda. Nash's requests are unopposed.

         For the following reasons, Nash's motions to maintain the seal and to file a superseding complaint under a pseudonym are denied. The Court, however, grants Nash's motion to file partially redacted copies of the instant motions.

         BACKGROUND

         Nash filed this action on March 28, 2014 under the qui tarn provisions of the False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 et seq., and the relevant parallel state false claims statutes against defendant UCB, Inc. The basic thrust of Nash's allegations is that UCB, Inc. defrauded the federal government out of millions of dollars in Medicaid funds.

         This FCA action, however, has remained dormant since its filing largely because of the procedural idiosyncrasies found under the FCA. Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), this case was filed under seal, in camera, and has not been served on defendant. The United States of America (the "Government") then moved repeatedly under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(3) to extend the time during which the complaint remains under seal so that the Government could investigate further into whether it would intervene in this action. The Court granted each of the Government's requests, which effectively stayed this action.

         On December 16, 2016, however, the Government filed a Notice of Decision to Decline to Intervene. Shortly thereafter, the States of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the District of Columbia filed notices indicating that they, too, were declining to intervene in this action.

         The Court issued two orders on December 20, 2016, which required, among other things, that the Amended Complaint be unsealed in sixty days and authorized Nash to proceed with service on defendant.

         DISCUSSION

         On January 6, 2017, Nash filed a motion with the Court: (1) to permanently maintain the seal on all documents filed in this action in their entirety; or (2) in the alternative, to allow Nash to file a superseding complaint under the pseudonym "John Doe" and to remove all information that could reveal his identity. In the event the Court denies both requests, Nash further requests to file a redacted version of the instant motion, which would remove any reference to his current employer. The Court addresses each of these requests in turn below.

         I. Motion to Maintain the Seal Indefinitely

         In this circuit, there is a "firmly rooted" presumption of public access to judicial documents. Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 2006). But before this presumption attaches to any particular document, the Court must "first conclude that the documents at issue are indeed judicial documents."' Id. If the court determines that a "document is a judicial document and therefore that at least a common law presumption of access applies, we must 'determine the weight' of the presumption of access. United States v. Erie County, 763 F.3d 235, 239 (2d Cir. 2014) (citing Lugosch, 435F.3dat 119).

         The weight of the presumption of access, in turn, is "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 courts." Lugosch, 435 F.3d at 119. "Generally, the information will fall somewhere on a continuum from matters that directly affect an adjudication to matters that come within a court's purview solely to insure their irrelevance." Id. (citing United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995)). Under these circumstances, the court simply balances any competing interests against disclosure against the presumption of public access to determine whether a judicial document should be sealed from the public. Erie County, 763 F.3d at 239.

         But where the documents at issue "have historically been open to the press and general public" and public access to those documents "plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question, " the presumption of access to judicial documents must be analyzed in light of the First Amendment of our Constitution. Id. In that case, the documents may be sealed [only] if specific, on the record findings are made demonstrating that closure is essential ...


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