Judge Reminds UFC That Public Access to Lawsuit Documents is the Norm

In the earlier stages of the Anti Trust Lawsuit against UFC parent company Zuffa the parties requested and the Court approved a blanket protective order over documents exchanged during the discovery process which largely prevents the public from accessing the documents when filed as part of the judicial proceedings.

Earlier this month, however, Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen provided reasons for judgement critical of this this broad protective order and requiring the parties wishing to keep documents from the public eye to meet their burden of proof on a document by document basis.  In other words, the Court says it will not act as a rubber stamp.

In the recent reasons (Le v. Zuffa) Judge Leen provided the following direction to the parties –

This Order is intended to remind counsel and the parties that there is a presumption of public access to judicial files and records…

Although the Court approved the blanket protective order, the parties have not shown, and this Court has not found, that any specific documents are secret or confidential…Parties seeking to maintain the secrecy of documents attached to dispositive motions must show compelling reasons sufficient to overcome the presumption of public access…The sealing of entire documents is improper when any confidential information can be redacted while leaving meaningful information available to the public…

Here, if an opposing party files a motion to seal certain documents based on the parties’ Stipulated Protective Order (Dkt. #217), the designating party is required to file within 14 days an appropriate memorandum of points and authorities making a particularized showing why the documents should remain under seal or why the designating party should be allowed to file a redacted version. If the designating party fails to timely comply with this Order, the motion to seal will be denied and the Clerk of the Court will be directed to unseal the documents to make them available on the public docket.

When lawsuits unfold the usual way the public obtains access to gritty underlying details are by obtaining copies of all court filings, affidavits and exhibits.  These reasons make it more likely that further inner workings of Zuffa will make their way into the public realm.

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