United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
April 21, 2017, the parties filed a stipulation for entry of
a protective order. (Docket #19). The parties request that
the Court enter a protective order so that the parties may
avoid the public disclosure of confidential information and
documents. Id. 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).
Court sympathizes with the parties' 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. Am. Tel. & Tel. 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).
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.
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 at 945).
parties have requested the protective order in this case in
good faith. This action involves allegations that Defendants
improperly prepared Plaintiffs' tax returns. (Docket #1).
The parties seek to protect sensitive materials they must
exchange to litigate this claim, including Plaintiffs'
tax returns and Defendants' bank, tax, and business
records. (Docket #19 at 1). The Court thus finds that there
is good cause to issue the requested protective order.
the Court finds that two slight changes are necessary to
maintain compliance with the above-cited precedent. First,
the proposed order requires sealing, in whole or in part, of
all confidential documents. This departs from the Court's
desire to ensure that every phase of the trial occurs in the
public eye to the maximum extent possible. See Hicklin
Eng'r, L.C., 439 F.3d at 348. While the
Court understands that some documents will need to be sealed
entirely, other documents may contain only small amounts of
confidential information, and so redaction of those documents
may be more appropriate. The Court has modified the
parties' proposed language to that effect. See
supra Paragraph (C)(2). Second, consistent with the
Court's and this district's standard practice, the
Court will allow members of the public to challenge the
confidentiality of documents filed in this case. See
supra Paragraph (D).
the Court must note that, while it finds the parties'
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 that it will not enter any decision under seal.
IT IS ORDERED that based on the parties' stipulation,
(Docket #19), and the factual representations set forth
therein, 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.
FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c) and
Civil L. R. 26(e):
DESIGNATION OF CONFIDENTIAL OR ATTORNEYS' EYES
INFORMATION. Designation of information under this Order must
be made by placing or affixing on the document or material,
in a manner that will not interfere with its legibility, the