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Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 27, 2016




         On December 20, 2016, the parties filed a stipulation for entry of a protective order. (Docket #24). The parties request that the Court enter a protective order so that the parties may avoid the public disclosure of confidential information and documents. See (Docket #24-1). Rule 26(c) allows for an order “requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(G); Civil L. R. 26(e).

         The Court sympathizes with the request and will grant it, but, before doing so, must note the limits that apply to protective orders. Protective orders are, in fact, an exception to the general rule that pretrial discovery must occur in the public eye. American Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Grady, 594 F.2d 594, 596 (7th Cir. 1979); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c); see also Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945-46 (7th Cir. 1999). Litigation must be “conducted in public to the maximum extent consistent with respecting trade secrets…and other facts that should be held in confidence.” Hicklin Eng'r, L.C. v. Bartell, 439 F.3d 346, 348 (7th Cir. 2006).

         Nonetheless, the Court can enter a protective order if the parties have shown good cause, and also that the order is narrowly tailored to serving that cause. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c); see, e.g., Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton, 178 F.3d at 945, Jepson, Inc. v. Makita Elec. Works, Ltd., 30 F.3d 854, 858 (7th Cir. 1994) (holding that, even when parties agree to the entry of a protective order, they still must show the existence of good cause). The Court can even find that broad, blanket orders-such as the one in this case-are narrowly tailored and permissible, when it finds that two factors are satisfied:

(1) that the parties will act in good faith in designating the portions of the record that should be subject to the protective order; and
(2) that the order explicitly allows the parties to the case and other interested members of the public to challenge the sealing of documents.

Cty. Materials Corp. v. Allan Block Corp., 502 F.3d 730, 740 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton, 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999)).

         The parties have requested the protective order in this case in good faith. This case involves an employment discrimination dispute which may require discovery of proprietary information, trade secrets, or other confidential or sensitive information of third parties. See (Docket #1). The Court thus finds that there is good cause to issue the requested protective order.

         The proposed order adequately protects the parties' sensitive information while still allowing public disclosure of non-confidential information. However, the Court must note that it subscribes to the view that its decision-making process must be transparent and as publicly accessible as possible. Thus, the Court preemptively warns the parties that it will not enter any decision under seal.

         Because the proposed protective order adequately complies with the standards set forth above, the Court will enter an order based on the parties' stipulation and proposed order to the Court. (Docket #24-1).

         Accordingly, Based on the parties' stipulation (Docket #24), the Court finds that exchange of sensitive information between or among the parties and/or third parties other than in accordance with this Order may cause unnecessary damage and injury to the parties or to others. The Court further finds that the terms of this Order are fair and just and that good cause has been shown for entry of a protective order governing the confidentiality of documents produced in discovery, answers to interrogatories, answers to requests for admission, and deposition testimony.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c) and Civil L. R. 26(e):

         Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Civil Local Rule 26(e), and based upon the agreement and stipulation of the parties, this Protective Order is hereby adopted and entered by the Court. In the absence of a contrary agreement of the parties or further Order by the Court, all information and documents produced in the course of discovery in the above-captioned action shall be subject to the following:

         1. “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” means any information determined by the producing party, or a party to this litigation if the document or information is produced by a non-party, acting in good faith, to contain non-public information constituting a trade secret, ...

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