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Nielson v. American Medical Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

March 1, 2018

IN RE AMERICAN MEDICAL SYSTEMS, INC. PELVIC REPAIR SYSTEM PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION
v.
American Medical Systems, Inc. Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-07551 THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO: Nielson et al

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is the Motion to File Under Seal, filed under seal by plaintiffs' counsel on January 11, 2018 [ECF No. 7]. As stated in the motion, plaintiffs' counsel request the attached Motion to Withdraw as Plaintiffs' Counsel [ECF No. 7-1] be considered and remain under seal through its adjudication as it contains potentially privileged information.

         Read together, these documents represent two separate requests that remain provisionally under seal, which the court will construe as: (1) a Motion to Seal, and (2) a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. There has been no response filed and the motions are now ripe for adjudication.

         I. Motion to Seal In support of their motion seeking leave to file under seal, plaintiffs' counsel state that the justifications for seeking withdrawal may contain privileged information. Plaintiffs' counsel neither elaborates further nor attaches a memorandum in support of filing under seal.

         A. Legal Standard

         Under the local rules, a motion to seal must be accompanied by a memorandum of law filed pursuant to the Administrative Procedures for Electronic Case Filing that contains the following:

(A) the reasons why sealing is necessary, including the reasons why alternative to sealing, such as redaction, are inadequate;
(B) the requested duration of the proposed seal; and
(C) a discussion of the propriety of sealing, giving due regard to the parameters of the common law and First Amendment rights of access as interpreted by the Supreme Court and our Court of Appeals.

S.D. W.Va. L.R. Civ. P. 26.4(c)(2). Public inspection of court documents “is necessary to allow interested parties to judge the court's work product in the cases assigned to it.” Id. 26.4(c)(1). “The right of public access to documents filed in a district court derives from two independent sources: the common law and the First Amendment.” Virginia Dep't State Police v. Washington Post, 386 F.3d 567, 575 (4th Cir. 2004).

         The common law right affords presumptive access to all judicial records and documents. Stone v. Univ. Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988). Materials that fall within the common law right may be sealed only if competing interests outweigh the public's right of access.

         The First Amendment right of access-when it applies[1]-offers even more protection to the public and can only be overcome “on the basis of a compelling governmental interest, and only if the denial is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” Virginia Dep't Police, 386 F.3d at 575 (citing Stone, 855 F.2d 180); see also Press-Enterprise Co. v. Sup. Ct. Cal., 464 U.S. 501, 510 (1984) (access may be denied if “closure is essential to preserve higher values”).

         As a result, the court may only seal documents when “exceptional circumstances” are present. S.D. W.Va. L.R. Civ. P. 26.4(c)(1).

         B. ...


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