Prior to today’s hearing on the constitutionality of Governor Nathan’s Deal’s suspension of the DeKalb County School Board, U.S. District Judge Richard Story placed the litigants on notice that he expects documents filed in the case should, as a general rule, not be sealed.
Story entered a standing order that outlines his policy “not to allow the filing of documents under seal, even if all parties consent to filing under seal; this is because documents filed in Court are presumptively public.”
Story’s order makes an exception for documents containing information protected by law from disclosure, personal information such as Social Security numbers, trade secrets or sensitive security data.
The judge’s order also directs anyone who wants to seal a court filing to submit a motion to file under seal, adding that, “The party or parties presenting the motion shall bear the burden of establishing (in the motion) good cause for sealing.”
A motion to seal would have to explain the reasons why sealing a document is necessary, why less drastic alternatives than sealing are not adequate and “address the factors governing sealing of documents reflected in controlling case law,” Story’s order states.
Story’s order also bars litigants from agreeing to “broad protective orders that would allow counsel to designate as confidential documents that will be filed in court without prior judicial review.”
The judge’s order provided for some documents to be designated as confidential “but only after review of the documents by an attorney who has determined in good faith that the documents contain information protected from disclosure by statute; personal information (such as social security numbers); trade secrets [as defined by Georgia law] or sensitive security data.”
The judge also noted in his order that any confidential designation “is subject to challenge,” and “the burden of proving the necessity of a confidential designation remains with the party asserting confidentiality.”