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Ripple v. Zurich American Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 15, 2017

THOMAS RIPPLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge

         On July 18, 2017, the parties filed a joint stipulation for entry of a protective order. (Docket #24). The parties request that the Court enter a protective order so that they 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).

         The 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).

         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.

County 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). The parties have requested the protective order in this case in good faith; they seek the order so that they might freely exchange sensitive information including, for example, proprietary business information. See (Docket #13 at 4). The Court thus finds that there is good cause to issue the requested protective order.

         However, the Court finds that one slight change is necessary to maintain compliance with the above-cited precedent. 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. The Court has modified the parties' proposed language to that effect. See supra Paragraph 8.

         Finally, 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.

         Accordingly, Based on the parties' joint stipulation, (Docket #24), 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.

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

         1. The term “document” shall mean all written, recorded, electronic or graphic material, however produced or reproduced, pertaining in any way to the subject matter of this action.

         2. The Parties may designate as “Confidential” all or part of any document they have generated or produced, by affixing the word “CONFIDENTIAL” on the document in a manner that will not interfere with the legibility or readability of the document. There shall be a subcategory of confidential materials, identified as “Attorneys' Eyes Only, ” designated by affixing the words “ATTORNEYS' EYES ONLY” on the document in a manner that will not interfere with the legibility or readability of the document, which shall be treated in the same manner as confidential material pursuant to the terms of this Order, except with the further restriction that such Attorneys' Eyes Only material shall be disclosed by the Parties only to outside attorneys working on this litigation for the Parties, and the law clerks, paralegals, office clerks and secretaries working under outside attorneys' supervision, and to outside experts who also agree to be bound by this Order. Together, these classes of confidential material are herein referred to as “Confidential Information.”

         3. Designation as Confidential Information shall be made, where practical, by marking each page of a document, each separate part or component of a thing, or each separate item of other information in a conspicuous manner. If it is not practical to mark each page of a document, as in the case of a bound publication, the cover of such document shall be so marked. If not ...


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