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Haynes v. Grebinnyk

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

April 3, 2018

CHARLES E. HAYNES, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Bradlee Nathan Haynes, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGIY GREBINNYK, an individual, and SAFINA INC., a North Carolina Corporation, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN T. COPENHAVER, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is plaintiff Charles E. Haynes' motion to file under seal the petition for approval of a wrongful death settlement and of distribution of the proceeds, filed March 9, 2018.

         Haynes instituted this action in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, West Virginia, on August 30, 2017. Pursuant to West Virginia Code § 55-7-5 et seq., Haynes alleged that the negligence of defendants Sergiy Grebinnyk and Safina Inc. ("Safina" and, together, "Defendants") resulted in the wrongful death of his son. (See Compl. ¶ 26.) Defendants removed the case to this court on September 21, 2017, invoking the court's diversity jurisdiction conferred by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a)(1), 1441(a). (See Notice of Removal ¶¶ 7-16.)

         The Local Rules of Procedure for the Southern District of West Virginia provide that

[t]he rule requiring public inspection of court documents is necessary to allow interested parties to judge the court's work product in the cases assigned to it. The rule may be abrogated only in exceptional circumstances.

Local R. P. 26.4(c)(1); accord Columbus-Am. Discovery Grp. v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2000) ("Publicity of [court] records ... is necessary in the long run so that the public can judge the product of the courts in a given case."). A motion to seal must be accompanied by a memorandum of law containing

(A) the reasons why sealing is necessary, including the reasons why alternatives 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.

Id. 26.4(c) (2) (A)-(B) .

         Both the common law and the First Amendment bear on the right of public access to court documents. Price v. Tuggle, No. 2:16-1529, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98618, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. July 28, 2016). For present purposes, the court presumes that only the common law is implicated. See Hall v. Beverly Enters. - W.Va., No. 2:10-0842, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123680, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. Nov. 19, 2010) (making this presumption for a motion to seal a wrongful death settlement while noting that excluding the First Amendment "is not a foregone conclusion").

         The common law

presumes a right of the public to inspect and copy "all 'judicial records and documents.'" Stone v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597, 55 L.Ed.2d 570, 98 S.Ct. 1306 (1978)). "This presumption of access, however, can be rebutted if countervailing interests heavily outweigh the public interests in access, " and "the party seeking to overcome the presumption bears the burden of showing some significant interest that outweighs the presumption." Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988).... Ultimately, under the common law the decision whether to grant or restrict access to judicial records or documents is a matter of a district court's "supervisory power[]" . . . "to be exercised in light of the relevant facts and circumstances of the particular case." Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598-99.

Va. Dep't of State Police v. Wash. Post, 386 F.3d 567, 575 (4th Cir. 2004) (first and third full ...


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