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Estate of Williams v. City of Milwaukee

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 27, 2016

ESTATE OF DEREK WILLIAMS, JR., TANIJAH WILLIAMS, DEREK WILLIAMS III, and TALIYAH S. WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MILWAUKEE, JEFFREY CLINE, RICHARD TICCIONI, PATRICK COE, JASON BLEICHWEHL, ROBERT THIEL, TODD KAUL, ZACHARY THOMS, GREGORY KUSPA, CRAIG THIMM, CHAD BOYACK, and DAVID LETTEER, Defendants.

          PROTECTIVE ORDER

          J.P. STANDTMUELLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On December 20, 2016, the parties filed a stipulated request for a confidentiality order. (Docket #18). They request the order so that they may avoid the public disclosure of confidential information and documents that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) will produce in response to the plaintiffs' subpoena. Id. at 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 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. The parties note that the FBI has asked them to seek the instant protective order so as to avoid incurring civil and criminal liability when it produces the subject records. (Docket #18 at 1). Further, this case involves the death of Derek Williams, Jr. in the course of interactions with various Milwaukee Police Department officers. As with the City of Milwaukee records previously produced in this matter, the FBI's document production will likely contain hypersensitive information.

         The proposed protective order is largely acceptable. The Court's only revision is to include a provision consistent with the Court's and this district's standard practice of allowing any party and any interested members of the public to challenge the sealing of documents. Finally, the Court must note that, while it finds the proposed order to be permissible and will, therefore, enter it, the Court subscribes to the view that the Court's decision-making process must be transparent and as publicly accessible as possible. Thus, the Court preemptively warns the parties and the DOJ that it will not enter any decision under seal.

         Because the proposed protective order adequately complies with the standards set forth above (after the Court's minor changes), the Court will enter an order based on the stipulation and proposed order to the Court.

         Accordingly, Pursuant to the stipulation of the parties (Docket #18), the Court finds that the exchange of sensitive information between the parties and/or third parties other than in accordance with this Order may cause unnecessary damage and injury to the parties and 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 this Order.

         IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that, pursuant to Civil Local Rule 26(e) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)(D), 1. PURPOSES AND LIMITATIONS

         The purpose of this Order is to enable the Federal Bureau of Investigation, its officers, agents, employees and representatives to provide information to Plaintiffs in this case which they might otherwise be prohibited from disclosing under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and as to which they might otherwise incur criminal and civil liability for having disclosed.

         2. “PROTECTED” MATERIAL

         “Protected” material shall include the following documents and tangible things produced or otherwise exchanged:

(a) FBI records that include Privacy Act protected information. Other than protection of Privacy Act protected information, nothing in this order limits in any way any other restrictions on the release of information, including restrictions on release of classified or privileged information, required or permitted by law.

         3. ...


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