United States District Court, E.D. New York
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
John Riley, a member of the public and a reporter for
Newsday, has petitioned the court to unseal documents
submitted by the Government, which relate to Defendant's
discharge from the United States military. (See Mot.
to Unseal ("Mot.") (Dkt. 57).) For the following
reasons, the Motion is DENIED.
April 6, 2017, at the court's request, the Government
submitted under seal certain "documents, which relate to
the defendant's discharge from the United States
military" (the "Military Records"). (See
Gov't Ltr. (Dkt. 51).) The Government requested that the
Military Records be maintained under seal because they
"contain sensitive information about the
April 20, 2017, Riley moved the court to unseal the Military
Records. (Mot.) Defendant responded that he "object[s]
to the release of [his] medical and psychological records as
well as any information prohibited from public disclosure
under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and Rule
49.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure." (Def.
Resp. to Mot. (Dkt. 59).) Defendant submitted a redacted copy
of the Military Records, proposing to make that version of
the records available to the public. (See Def. Ltr.
(Dkt. 60); Proposed Red. Military Records (Dkt. 60-1).) The
Government has confirmed that it has no objections to
Defendant's proposed redactions. (Gov't Resp. to Mot.
court finds that continued sealing of the redacted sections
of the Military Records is proper in light of the standards
governing public access to judicial documents and so denies
the motion to unseal.
public enjoys a presumptive right of access to judicial
documents under the common law and a "qualified First
Amendment right... to access certain judicial
documents." Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga,
435 F.3d 110, 119, 120 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotations
marks and citation omitted). Where the common law right
applies,  the court must apply a "presumption
of access, " with the weight of the presumption
determined by the "role of the material at issue in the
exercise of Article III judicial power" and its
"resultant value ... to those monitoring the
courts." United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044,
1049 (2d Cir. 1995). In those cases, the "court must
balance competing considerations against disclosure, "
permitting a document to be sealed from public access only
where the "competing interests outweigh the
presumption." Lugosch, 435 F.3d at 120. The
qualified First Amendment right of access provides an
additional, stronger level of protection than does the common
law right, such that courts may only resist disclosure where
"specific, on the record findings are made demonstrating
that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is
narrowly tailored to serve that interest." United
States v. Erie Ctv., N.Y.. 763 F.3d 235, 239 (2d Cir.
2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Either or both of these rights of access may extend to
criminal sentencing proceedings, and documents used in aid of
those proceedings are "presumed to be open to the
public." United States v. Huntley. 943
F.Supp.2d 383, 385 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Nixon v.
Warner Commc'ns. 435 U.S. 589, 597-98 H978»:
see United States v. Alcantara, 396 F.3d 189, 196-98
(2d Cir. 2005)). But see United States v. Charmer
Indus.. 711 F.2d 1164, 1171 (2d Cir. 1983) (holding that
presentence reports are generally not subject to public
rights of access afforded by the common law and First
Amendment are not absolute, however, and the need for
disclosure may be overcome where the party seeking to seal
the documents can show that there are "countervailing
factors" (in the common law framework), see
Amodeo. 71 F.23d at 1050, or that sealing is necessary
to preserve "higher values" (in the First Amendment
context), see Alcantara. 396 F.3d at 200. The
privacy interests of the person resisting disclosure can be
sufficient to overcome the public right of access.
Lugosch, 435 F.3d at 120. Courts have specifically
recognized that "there is a recognized privacy interest
in medical records, " albeit one that is neither
"fundamental nor absolute." United States v.
Sattar, 471 F.Supp.2d 380, 387 (S.D.N.Y. 2006); see
Id. at 389 (holding that "the interest in
personal privacy for the matters redacted from [the
defendant's] [psychiatric] report provides a sufficiently
compelling interest to overcome" the First Amendment
right of access); cf Amodeo. 71 F.3d at 1051
("In determining the weight to be accorded an assertion
of a right of privacy, courts should first consider the
degree to which the subject matter is traditionally
considered private rather than public[F]amily affairs,
illnesses, embarrassing conduct with no public ramifications,
and similar matters will weigh more heavily against access
than conduct affecting a substantial portion of the
party moving to seal a document (or to maintain it under
seal) bears the burden of establishing that sealing is
warranted." United States v. Zazi. Nos.
09-CR-663 (RJD), 10-CR-19 (RJD), 2010 WL 2710605, at *2
(E.D.N.Y. June 30, 2010).
outset, the court notes that it requested that the Government
submit the Military Records. It is not as though Defendant
submitted these records "in an attempt to mitigate his
sentence." United States v. Dare. 568 F.Supp.2d
242, 244 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (holding that the defendant's
privacy interest in medical records was minimized where the
defendant chose to introduce the medical information). The
Military Records are in fact peripheral to Defendant's
sentencing. With this in mind, the court finds that Defendant
has met his burden of establishing that continued sealing of
the redacted portions of the Military Records is warranted,
as the presumption of access with respect to those sections
is overcome by "higher values" connected with
Defendant's privacy interests.
redactions submitted by Defendant keep several categories of
information under seal:
■ Personal identifying information, including
Defendant's social security number, birth date, home
address and phone number, as well as ...