Settlement Agreement with Charter School Can’t Be Sealed, If It’s Submitted for Court Approval
From Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s (D.D.C.) opinion in Lee v. Seed Public Charter School of Washington, D.C., decided last week:
In this case, Plaintiff Chante Lee, on behalf of her minor child M.L., brings claims against the Seed Charter Public School of Washington, D.C., for alleged violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as common law torts of gross negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. These claims arise out of alleged instances of violence and bullying M.L. experienced while he was a student at the Seed charter school in 2016 and 2017.
The parties have now reached a settlement agreement to resolve this dispute. But because this settlement agreement involves a minor, the parties were required seek court approval for the final settlement before it went into effect. On August 9, 2021, the parties jointly moved for this Court’s settlement approval, but filed both their joint motion and the settlement documents under seal. On October 14, 2021, the Court issued an order granting the parties’ request for approval of their settlement agreement….
[T]he Court DENIES the parties’ Motion to Seal these documents….
The D.C. Circuit has unequivocally ” ‘recogniz[ed] this country’s common law tradition of public access to records of a judicial proceeding,’ noting that ‘[a]ccess to records serves the important functions of ensuring the integrity of judicial proceedings.'” This “common law right” to the public access of judicial records “is fundamental to a democratic state.” “Accessing judicial records” is also essential “to ‘the rule of law’ and ‘important to maintaining the integrity and legitimacy of an independent Judicial Branch.'” For these reasons, there exists a “strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial proceedings.”
The right to access judicial records, however, is not absolute. Rather, “competing interests may outweigh the strong presumption favoring disclosure.” “In Hubbard, [the D.C. Circuit] crafted a six-factor test to balance the interests presented by a given case” …: (1) the need for public access to the documents at issue; (2) the extent of previous public access to the documents; (3) the fact that someone has objected to disclosure, and the identity of that person; (4) the strength of any property and privacy interests asserted; (5) the possibility of prejudice to those opposing disclosure; and (6) the purposes for which the documents were introduced
Article from Latest – Reason.com