United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
ORDER GRANTING SYNGENTA'S MOTION TO DE-DESIGNATE
AND UNSEAL FILINGS MARKED CONFIDENTIAL BY THIRD-PARTY
R. Herndon United State District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Syngenta's motion (doc.
333), challenging the confidentiality designations that
third-party defendant Cargill placed on certain material,
then referenced and discussed in three different filings,
specifically: 1. Syngenta's Third-Party Complaint, doc.
229, 2. Syngenta's Opposition to the ACD defendants'
Motion to Dismiss the Third-Party Complaint, doc. 325, and 3.
the motion of which this Order relates, Syngenta's Motion
to De-Designate and Unseal Filings Marked Confidential by
Cargill (“Motion to Unseal”). Syngenta seeks the
Court unseal these three documents and any accompanying
exhibits due to improper confidentiality designations marked
by Cargill as either “confidential” or
“highly confidential, ” asserting that this
practice violates the public's right to an open court
opposes Syngenta's Motion to Unseal only in part, and
states narrow objections to various textual references in the
three filings listed above and to the exhibits attached to
Syngenta's Opposition to the ACD defendants' Motion
to 1 Dismiss. Cargill contends that parts of the contested
material incorporated by Syngenta in document numbers 229,
325, and 333 were appropriately designated as confidential
and properly sealed due to the commercially sensitive nature
of the information, and that Syngenta's case is not
prejudiced by maintaining that designation because the
information Syngenta seeks to unseal is only tangentially
relevant to the merits of the case. Thus, Cargill asks that
the Court grant Syngenta's motion in part and deny the
motion in part. The Court has considered the parties'
briefing and has reviewed each of the challenged documents.
For the reasons discussed herein, the Court
GRANTS Syngenta's motion in its
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “for good
cause shown, the court ... may make any order which justice
requires to protect a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense,
including ... that a trade secret or other confidential
research, development, or commercial information not be
revealed or be revealed only in a designated way....”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). A party seeking a protective order under
Rule 26(c) bears the burden of demonstrating good cause.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(7). In the instant matter, a protective
order was entered that allowed Cargill to designate
materials, in good faith, as Confidential or Highly
Confidential. See Cargill Stipulated Protective
Order entered in Louisiana state court litigation
(40thJudicial District Court for the Parish of S.
John the Baptist, No. 67061, Division A); see also,
doc. 56 (Protective Order containing mirrored provisions).
Protective Order further provides that if a party challenges
any such confidential designations, “the burden of
proving the necessity of [the designation] remains with the
party asserting confidentiality.” Id. at
¶ 15, see also, In re Bank One Sec. Litig., 222
F.R.D. 582, 586 (N.D. Ill. 2004), quoting Union Oil Co.
of Cal. V. Leavell, 220 F.3d 562, 568 (7th
Cir. 2000) (“Once a protective order is entered, a
party must continue to show good cause for confidentiality
when challenged.”) Accordingly, Cargill's duty to
establish good cause for its confidentiality designations was
triggered when Syngenta raised an issue with respect to the
civil litigation, “only trade secrets, information
covered by a recognized privilege . . ., and information
required by statute to be maintained in confidence . . . is
entitled to be kept secret.”
Baxter Int'l, Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 297 F.3d
544, 545 (7th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added); see
also, Union Oil Co., 220 F.3d at 568 (“only
genuine trade secrets, or information with the scope of a
requirement such as Fed. R. Crip. P. 6(e)(2) . . . may be
held in long-term confidence.” Thus, to successfully
carry the burden of establishing good cause for the
confidentiality designations, Cargill must first demonstrate
that the objected to materials fall into one of these
categories, and then show that a particular need for
protection exists. There must be evidence that a clearly
defined and serious injury will result otherwise.
See 8 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice
And Procedure § 2035 (3d ed.). In this regard,
“[t]he courts have insisted on a particular and
specific demonstration of fact, as distinguished from
stereotyped and conclusory statements.” Id.; Gulf
Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89, 102 (1981) (citing
Wright & Miller).
main issue before the Court thus becomes: Has Cargill
established good cause for the Court to keep the challenged
documents protected under seal? In other words, has Cargill
demonstrated that the information it seeks to keep protected
of a legitimate commercially sensitive nature that would harm
Cargill in a concrete way if made public. The Court thinks
not. The undersigned has taken the time to review the
material referenced in the three documents subject to
Syngenta's Motion to Unseal and find that they lack
confidentiality of any kind and/or have already been
introduced into the public domain. Cargill fails to
demonstrate the commercial sensitivity of the challenged
material, using only generalized conclusory terms to bolster
why Cargill would suffer a competitive disadvantage if
explanation Cargill does gives to demonstrate why the
contested documents should be kept sealed is spent on
nonspecific, boilerplate conclusions. Cargill's briefing
says little more than that certain portions of the three
contested documents contain information that give it a
competitive advantage or that they are internal
communications consisting of sensitive business information.
See, e.g. doc. 335 at 16, (opposing unsealing
because document “contains Cargill's internal
discussions of business strategy” and because exhibit
contains “sensitive internal discussions about business
strategy.”) Cargill spends no time convincing the Court
that the business information it seeks to protect are genuine
trade secrets. See Union Oil Co., 220 F.3d at 568
(“[O]nly genuine trade secrets . . . may be held in
long-term confidence.”) Nebulous allegations of
competitive harm that might result do not suffice to
demonstrate that any particularized harm will result from
additionally focuses on case law supporting when various
courts have kept business information redacted due to the
material being only “tangentially relevant” to
the case at hand. See, e.g. Cargill's quote in
doc. 335, p. 9 to Sky Angel U.S., v. Discovery
Commc'ns, LLC, 95 F.Supp.3d 860, 885 (D. Md. 2015)
and Cargill's quote at p. 10 to Williams v. Cent.
Contracting & Marine Inc., No. 15-867 (SMY-RJD),
2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151941, at *2 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 2, 2016)
(Yandle, J.) Again however, the Court is not provided with
sound reasoning as to why Cargill believes the information in
the three contested documents is not relevant to resolution
of the instant matter or why it believes the challenged
material will not form part of the basis of judicial action
on the issues. These non-specific arguments do not
satisfactorily establish that the confidentiality
designations are proper.
Court also notes that in opposing Syngenta's motion,
Cargill devotes energy trying to discern the objective behind
Syngenta's decision to contest the designations. Cargill
asserts that Syngenta moves to make the documents public
because Syngenta wants to “publicly malign
Cargill” and “sling mud” at Cargill, doc.
333, pgs. 2, 20, and argues that the Court is under no
obligation to publicize briefing that serves only as
“reservoirs of libelous statements for press
consumption.” Id. at p. 20, citing Nixon
v. Warner Comc'ns,, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978).
The Court however fails to see the importance of this
position. Syngenta is not under an obligation to prove a
proper motive for their motion. Syngenta challenged the
subject confidentiality designations and thus, it falls on
Cargill to establish that those designations were
reasons discussed herein, Syngenta's motion is
GRANTED. The Court ORDERS
the de-designation of the three challenged documents.
Accordingly, the Court DIRECTS the Clerk of
the Court to take the necessary action to unseal the
appropriate documents, namely, docket entries ...