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City of Greenville, Il; Village of Coulterville, Il; Village v. Syngenta Crop Protection

March 19, 2013

CITY OF GREENVILLE, IL; VILLAGE OF COULTERVILLE, IL; VILLAGE OF EVANSVILLE, IL; VILLAGE OF FARINA, IL; CITY OF GILLESPIE, IL; CITY OF CAMERON, MO; CITY OF CONCORDIA, MO; CITY OF CARBONDALE, KS; CITY OF MARION, KS; MIAMI COUNTY RURAL WATER DISTRICT NO. 2; CITY OF OSWEGO, KS; CITY OF JASPER, IN; VILLAGE OF MONROEVILLE, OH; CITY OF UPPER SANDUSKY, OH; CRESTON MUNICIPAL UTILITIES; ILLINOIS-AMERICAN WATER CO.; MISSOURI-AMERICAN WATER CO.; INDIANA-AMERICAN WATER CO., INC.; IOWA-AMERICAN WATER CO.; OHIO-AMERICAN WATER CO.; CHARITON MUNICIPAL WATERWORKS; AND VILLAGE OF OTTAWA, OH, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SYNGENTA CROP PROTECTION, INC., AND SYNGENTA AG, DEFENDANTS. ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY CENTER AND PRAIRIE RIVERS NETWORK, INTERVENORS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge J. Phil Gilbert

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the appeal by defendants Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., n/k/a Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and Syngenta AG of Magistrate Judge Frazier's December 4, 2012 order directing that certain documents in this case be unsealed (Doc. 330). The defendants object to the order to the extent it directs the following exhibits to Document 112 be unsealed: Exhibits 298, 329, 346, 348, and 357-60 (Doc. 332). Intervenors Environmental Law and Policy Center and Prairie Rivers Network, who assert the public's interest in access to Court files, have responded to the defendants' objection (Doc. 349). For the following reasons, the Court will affirm Magistrate Judge Frazier's order.

A district court reviewing a magistrate judge's decision on nondispositive issues should modify or set aside that decision if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The Court may also sua sponte reconsider any matter determined by a magistrate judge. L.R. 73.1(a); Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009).

Whether certain documents filed under seal should remain under seal has been an issue in this case for more than two years. The plaintiffs originally filed documents under seal because they believed they were obligated to do so by a protective order, but the defendants are the parties with the interest in maintaining the secrecy of the documents. Thus, the defendants bear the burden of demonstrating that maintaining the documents under seal is warranted. They have repeatedly failed to satisfy this burden.

The issue of sealing documents was first addressed by the Court in Magistrate Judge Frazier's October 5, 2010, protective order (Doc. 90), in which he ordered the following: C "All items filed with the Clerk under seal must be accompanied by separate motion showing good cause to exclude the material from the public record" (Doc. 90 at 1); and C "Where any Confidential Information or information derived from Confidential

Information is included in any court filing, the parties shall comply with the applicable Local Rules for the Southern District of Illinois for the electronic filing of materials under seal. Within 14 days, any party may file a separate motion showing good cause why the material should remain under seal" (Doc. 90 at 4, ¶ 9).

The plaintiffs believed this protective order obligated them to file under seal their motion to strike and the exhibits to that motion (Docs. 114 & 115), their motion to substitute their motion to strike (Doc. 116), and their substituted motion to strike (Doc. 121) because they referred to or contained many documents the defendants had designated as "Confidential Information" during discovery. The defendants did not file a separate motion within 14 days showing good cause why the material should be maintained under seal. Instead, in conjunction with the Court's first order to show cause why the sealed documents should not be unsealed (Doc. 119), the parties attempted to justify sealing the documents by referring to the protective order (Doc. 126). They failed, however, to offer any legal reason or argument overcoming the presumption in favor of public access to court files.

The Court was dissatisfied with the parties' responses to its first order to show cause so it issued a second order (Doc. 170) for the defendants to show cause why every document in the case that had been filed under seal should not be unsealed, including the plaintiffs' response to Syngenta AG's motion to dismiss and the multiple exhibits to that response (Doc. 112).*fn1 In that order, the Court set forth the relevant law regarding when documents may be withheld from public view, which the Court will not reiterate in this order. It further directed that the defendants' response to the show cause order "must address each sealed document individually and must set forth a justification, with citation to relevant authority" (Doc. 170 at 4).

The defendants responded (Doc. 182) by dividing the sealed documents into three categories: (1) documents that should be unsealed because they were never designated or were wrongfully designated as "Confidential Information," (2) documents that should be stricken because they were duplicates of other documents or were not cited in any brief, and (3) documents that the Court should keep under seal. All the documents that remain in issue in this case are in the third category.*fn2

In support of the third category, the defendants cited three unpublished cases for the general propositions that documents should be sealed if they contain regulatory compliance and strategies and product development information, see Bayer Healthcare, LLC v. Norbrook Labs., Ltd., No. 08-C-0953, 2009 WL 3444938 (E.D. Wisc. Oct. 23, 2009); organizational structure, employee assessments and employee compensation, see Swartz v. Wabash Nat'l Corp., No. 4:07-cv-70-AS, 2009 WL 1606923 (N.D. Ind. June 8, 2009); and trade secrets, nonpublic financial information and nonpublic business information like pricing, business plans and strategies, see Metavante Corp. v. Emigrant Sav. Bank, No. 05-CV-1221, 2008 WL 4722336 (E.D. Wisc. Oct. 24, 2008). They also included a chart listing each exhibit they sought to keep under seal in whole or in part with, in the case of depositions, the lines sought to be kept under seal and, in the case of other documents, a general reference to the justification for keeping the document under seal. They did not, however, explain in any detail how the general justifications identified in the three cases they cited applied to the specific materials they sought to keep sealed. The fate of these third-category documents was decided by Magistrate Judge Frazier in his December 4, 2012, order (Doc. 330).

The defendants object (Doc. 332) only to Magistrate Judge Frazier's order to unseal Exhibits 298, 329, 346, 348, and 357-60 to the plaintiffs' response to Syngenta AG's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Doc. 112).

After carefully reviewing the documents in question and Magistrate Judge Frazier's order directing that they be unsealed, the Court finds that the order is not clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Furthermore, the Court sees no reason to sua sponte reconsider that decision. Magistrate Judge Frazier was correct in finding that the defendants have not shown good cause for keeping the documents under seal, and he reached the same result the Court would have reached had it considered the matter in the first instance.

As a preliminary matter, the Court finds that by failing to comply with the Protective Order's requirement to ask the Court to keep filed documents under seal, by failing to adequately support and explain in their response to the second order to show cause their assertion of good cause to seal,*fn3 and by presenting an argument for the first time in their appeal of Magistrate Judge Frazier's order, the defendants have waived any argument that the documents in question should remain under seal.

The Court further rejects the defendants' novel and unsupported argument that if the Court did not specifically mention an exhibit in an order, the exhibit was not necessary to the decision and should therefore remain under seal. This is simply not true. Courts often consider documents in the file ...


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