The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARLANDER KEYS, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for a
Protective Order. Defendants have moved for an order prohibiting
the disclosure of transcripts and videotapes of depositions taken
in this case outside of the context of this litigation and the
use of any such documentation for purposes other than trial
preparation and settlement. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' Motion is granted.
Plaintiffs are former and current officials of the Automobile
Mechanics Union Local 701, one of the largest branches of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
("IAM") in the country. The individual Defendants are the
President and other officials of the International Union. In 2002 and 2003, IAM was in the process of negotiating a
national contract with the United Parcel Service ("UPS"). When
this contract was first brought to Local 701 for ratification,
Plaintiffs were instrumental in assuring that it would be voted
down, according to IAM officials. On February 14, 2003, Mr.
Buffenbarger, the International President of the IAM, placed
Local 701 under trusteeship. He also suspended Local 701's
Business Representatives and all of its Executive Board Members
(including all of the Plaintiffs), because they allegedly failed
to toe the party line in connection with ratifying the UPS
contract. On February 23, 2003, a second ratification vote was
held for Local 701 members; this time Local 701 ratified the
contract with UPS.
In May of 2003, Mr. Nauyalis filed internal union charges
against four of the Plaintiffs, charging them with
insubordination for failing to follow IAM directives and with
various other union-related offenses.*fn1 Messrs. Elam,
Behrman, Verne, Feehan, and Baker sued in this Court, seeking to
enjoin the Trusteeship and alleging, among other things, that IAM
unlawfully disciplined them, deprived them of their right to free speech, and their right to vote.
On May 24, 2004, Plaintiffs notified Defendants of their intent
to depose each of the individual Defendants, and to videotape
those depositions. When Defendants inquired about the purpose of
videotaping the depositions, Plaintiffs' counsel responded that
perhaps Plaintiffs would send the videotapes to the media, or
post the transcripts on the internet. Defendants requested that
use of the transcripts and videotapes be limited to purposes
directly related to this lawsuit, but Plaintiffs declined,
explaining that the union members have a right to access those
materials and that Plaintiffs are free to do as they see fit with
any materials obtained during discovery.*fn2
Notably, Plaintiffs maintain a website that is largely devoted
to criticizing Defendants, and their relationship with Plaintiffs
and Local 701. That website notes that Defendants, by the instant
Motion, are attempting to hide facts from the membership and
states that Plaintiffs and their attorneys are fighting to make Mr. Buffenbarger's impending deposition
testimony available for viewing. Plaintiffs' brief, filed in
opposition to Defendants' Motion for a Protective Order, does not
deny their intention to widely disseminate transcripts and/or
videotapes of Defendants' depositions.
When discussions between the parties failed to produce a
mutually agreeable solution, Defendants filed this Motion for a
Defendants seek a protective order to prevent Plaintiffs from
using Defendants' deposition testimony for purposes unrelated to
trial preparation or settlement. Defendants claim that Plaintiffs
desire to use the materials for insidious purposes, including to
embarrass Defendants and to influence the impending national
union election. Instead of denying their intent to use
Defendants' deposition testimony for purposes unrelated to this
litigation, Plaintiffs have instead asserted an almost absolute
right to do whatever they choose with the testimony.
"As a general proposition, pretrial discovery must take place
in . . . public unless compelling reasons exist for denying the
public access to the proceedings." Jepson, Inc. v. Makita Elec.
Works, Ltd., 30 F.3d 854, 858 (7th Cir. 1994). "Absent a
protective order, parties to a lawsuit may disseminate materials obtained during discovery as they see fit." Id.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) permits courts to issue
protective orders "for good cause shown;" including to protect a
party from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden
or expense." Fed.R. Civ. P. 26(c). In determining whether good
cause exists, courts balance the public's interest in having
access to the proceeding against the litigants' property and
privacy interests. Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton v.
Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999).
In Jennings v. Peters, 162 F.R.D. 120 (1995), Judge Grady was
presented with a similar request from the plaintiffs, who were
union trustees. The Jennings plaintiffs raised concerns that
the defendants would use their deposition testimony to influence
an impending election campaign, suggesting that the testimony
might "be reduced to a sound bite and broadcast at a campaign
rally, or distributed to the electorate in some fashion." Id.
at 121. Like Plaintiffs in the instant case, the Jennings
defendants refused to agree to limit the use of the depositions.
Id. at 122 (noting that the defendants failed to deny their
intention to use the plaintiffs' deposition in an inappropriate
way). Judge Grady concluded that, because the evidence indicated
that the defendants intended to use the plaintiff's deposition
for a purpose unrelated to settlement or trial preparation, but instead to embarrass the plaintiff, the
plaintiff's request for a protective order fell squarely within
Rule 26(c). Id. at 123.
The Court acknowledges that the Jennings decision is
distinguishable from the instant case. For example, the
Jennings defendants failed to even refer to the deposition
testimony at issue in their motion opposing summary judgment,
whereas it is likely that Defendants' ...