Libel Case Can’t Be Litigated with Alleged Libel Sealed
In Manhattan Telecommunications Corp. [MetTel] v. Granite Telecommunications, LLC, MetTel sued its competitor Granite for allegedly libeling MetTel in statements to customers; but the allegedly libelous statements were redacted from the publicly available Complaint.
Not allowed, says Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III, dealing with my notice opposing such sealing. (Many thanks to my local counsel Garrett Rice of Ross Aronstam & Moritz LLP for all his invaluable help, and to UCLA law student Jenna Battaglia, who worked on the case with me.) Here is an excerpt from the Vice Chancellor’s opinion; for similar federal cases, see Parson v. Farley (which I had also filed) and Holmes v. Grambling:
Court of Chancery Rule 5.1 … codifies the “powerful presumption of public access” to court proceedings and records…. [Confidential treatment is allowed only if a party] can demonstrate that “the public interest in access to Court proceedings is outweighed by the harm that public disclosure of sensitive, non-public information would cause.”
By design, the burden of demonstrating [this] is exacting, recognizing that “[t]hose who decide to litigate in a public forum … must do so in a manner consistent with the right of the public to follow and monitor the proceedings and the result of [the] dispute.” In this regard, our courts appreciate that public access to the courts and their business is “fundamental to a democratic state and necessary in the long run so that the public can judge the product of the courts in a given case.” And the public cannot “judge the product of the courts in a given case” if the information being withheld is necessary for understanding “the nature of the dispute” or the court’s bases for a decision….
[A.] MetTel’s Interest in Confidentiality
The harm MetTel alleges will be inflicted upon it in the absence of confidentiality protections is too broad to meet the requirements of Rule 5.1…. [T]o show an interest in confidentiality that outweighs the public’s right of access, MetTel must do more than make “[g]eneric statements of harm.” The showing must be particularized; in other words, MetTel “must point to specific information like ‘trade secrets or competitively sensitive pricing information'” that is not in the public mix and, if disclosed, will cause clearly identified harm.
MetTel claims to meet this burden by alleging “harm beyond its reputation, including but not limited to direct harm to its business relationships with current and p
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