United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
KENDAN ELLIOTT, individually, and as next friend of S. J. E., a minor, Plaintiff,
MANHATTAN CRYOBANK, INC., LIFEPRINT GROUP, INC., CN GENETIC PARTNERS LLC, and CCB-MCB, LLC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the separate motions of
Defendants CN Genetic Partners, LLC and CCB-MCB, LLC for
leave to file their disclosure of organizational interests
certificates under seal. (Doc. Nos. 8 and 30). For the
reasons set forth below, the motions will be denied.
lawsuit arises out of a transaction between the parties
involving the purchase of sperm and a subsequent birth
defect. On February 7, 2019, Defendants Manhattan Cryobank,
Inc., LifePrint Group, Inc., and CN Genetic Partners, LLC,
removed this action to federal court on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1). Defendant CN Genetic
Partners, LLC filed a motion for leave to file its disclosure
of organizational interests under seal, stating that it
wished to protect the privacy of its individual members due
to the amount of media attention surrounding this case.
Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that sealing the
disclosure of organizational interests interferes with the
public's access to judicial records and documents.
Thereafter, CCB-MCB, LLC filed a motion for leave to file its
disclosure of organizational interests under seal that is
substantially identical to that filed by CN Genetic Partners.
is a common-law right of access to judicial records. IDT
Corp. v. eBay, 709 F.3d 1220, 1222 (8th Cir. 2013)
(citing Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S.
589, 597 (1978)). “[T]he courts of this country
recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records
and documents, including judicial records and documents,
” but “the right to inspect and copy judicial
records is not absolute.” Id. at 597-98
(footnotes omitted). “This right of access bolsters
public confidence in the judicial system by allowing citizens
to evaluate the reasonableness and fairness of judicial
proceedings and to keep a watchful eye on the workings of
public agencies.” Id. (citations and
quotations omitted). “It also provides a measure of
accountability to the public at large, which pays for the
courts.” Id. (citing Citizens First
Nat'l Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178
F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999)).
party seeking closure or sealing of court documents must show
that a restriction of the right of public access is
necessitated by a compelling government interest.”
S.E.C. v. Shanahan, No. 4:06-MC-546 CAS, 2006 WL
3330972, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 15, 2006) (citing Goff v.
Graves, 362 F.3d 543, 550 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations
omitted). “[O]nly the most compelling reasons can
justify non-disclosure of judicial records.” In re
Neal, 461 F.3d 1048, 1053 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting
In re Gitto Global Corp., 422 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir.
the Supreme Court has stated that the “right to inspect
and copy judicial records is not absolute.”
Nixon, 435 U.S. at 597. Access may be denied when
court files “might have become a vehicle for improper
purposes, ” including being used to “gratify
private spite or promote public scandal, ” like the
details of a divorce case. Id. (citations omitted).
“Similarly, courts have refused to permit their files
to serve as reservoirs of libelous statements for press
consumption . . . or as sources of business information that
might harm a litigant's competitive standing.”
Id. (citations omitted).
Genetic Partners urges the Court to adopt the reasoning set
forth in United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1049
(2d Cir. 1995) to prevent disclosure. There, the Second
Circuit held that “the presumption of access must be
governed by the role of the material at issue in the exercise
of Article III judicial power and the resultant value of such
information to those monitoring the federal courts, ”
and that where the document plays only a negligible role in
the performance of a court's Article III duties, the
weight of the presumption is low. 71 F.3d at 1050. CN Genetic
Partners argues that the disclosure form is merely a tool for
federal judges to identify conflicts of interest and is not
related to the merits of the case. Thus, it maintains that
the privacy interest of its members outweighs the presumption
of public disclosure.
Eighth Circuit precedent indicates that in order to seal
records or documents, there must be a compelling governmental
interest. Goff, 362 F.3d at 550; see also
Shanahan, 2006 WL 3330972, at *4 (holding that
“the respondents' interest in keeping their names
out of the public record is not a governmental interest at
all, but rather a private interest”). “The mere
fact that the production of records may lead to a
litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to
further litigation will not, without more, compel the court
to seal its records.” Shanahan, 2006 WL
3330972 at *4 (citing Kamakana v. City and County of
Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 2006).
there is no evidence that the court files might be used for
improper purposes, such as to gratify private spite or
promote public scandal, or that the disclosure of
organizational interests harm Defendants' competitive
standing. Therefore, the motions for leave to file the
disclosure of organizational interests certificates under
seal will be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant CN
Genetic Partners, LLC's motion for leave to file its
disclosure of organizational interests certificate under seal
(Doc. No. 8) is DENIED.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant CCB-MCB, LLC's
motion for leave to file its disclosure of organizational