Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Magistrate judge grants AutoZone's motion to seal

By Angela Underwood | Sep 19, 2017

SPRINGFIELD - A magistrate judge granted a AutoZone's motion to seal documents after denying the plaintiff the same right because the defendant's motion was the only one pending when he addressed the issue. 

Without prejudice, magistrate judge Donald Wilkerson denied the request filed by plaintiffs Steve Williamson and Rhonda Christine LeMaster, on behalf of themselves and likewise litigants.  They filed the motion regarding employment statements from AutoZone, Inc. employees Scott Brack and Larry Arthur, which the big brand auto service deemed “non-public, proprietary and commercially sensitive business information,” according to the ruling.

The plaintiffs argued that AutoZone could not prove that the documents in fact did hold trade secrets. 

They also argued "that the AutoZone Defendants’ motion is moot insofar as they forfeited confidentiality claims when they produced the relevant documents without ever requesting a protective order from the Court,” Wilkerson wrote.

After finding that the plaintiffs failed to file a sur-reply "setting forth any argument to the contrary," Wilkerson stated that the issue must be addressed. 

“A review of the docket in this matter demonstrates a concerning practice insofar as the parties have filed various documents under seal without seeking permission from this Court,” he wrote.

“Although the Court recognizes Plaintiffs’ representation that a page of said report is subject to Protective Order, such circumstance does not require, or necessarily allow, that the document be filed under seal,” he added.

Wilkerson explained that while both parties filed all of their exhibits in support of their motion for class certification under seal, only AutoZone's motion was pending when the issue was addressed. 

Wilkerson wrote that the Court should “allow the exhibits filed under seal in support of Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and the AutoZone Defendants’ memorandum in opposition to remain sealed.” 

He ordered the parties to reintroduce all public record exhibits for review. 

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois