Judge Rejects Request To Seal Filings In Case Over Miami Heat Owner's Unflattering Photo
from the public-interest dept
Earlier this year, we wrote about how a minority owner of the Miami Heat, Ranaan Katz, was so upset about an “unflattering photo” that a blogger/critic had posted of him, that he apparently bought the copyright on the photo and sued the blogger, claiming copyright infringement.
For the sake of understanding the story, this is the photo in question.
However, in a somewhat surprising move, both the blogger and Katz, together decided that, even though this case was filed in court — which is supposed to have a public record — they both wanted the details kept secret and filed under seal. Thankfully, even though both parties were asking for such secrecy, the judge clearly rejected the request.
After a review of the parties’ Joint Motion and proposed order, the Court finds that the parties have offered no compelling basis to overturn the Court’s long-standing principle and practice of maintaining Court proceedings and documents public. “The Federal Judiciary has zealously protected the right of all citizens to free, open and public trials.” Dorsman v. Glazer…. Open judicial proceedings are “rooted in the ‘principle that justice cannot survive behind the walls of silence,’ and in the ‘traditional Anglo-American distrust for secret trials.'” Sheppard v. Maxwell…. Except in rare instances, it is the right of every American to see the public’s business conducted in an open forum.
And, the judge notes, despite both of the parties wanting it, this is not one of those “rare instances.” “lndeed, the parties have provided no evidence even suggesting such need.” Even more ridiculous, the court notes, is the fact that the defendant in the case joined the plaintiff in asking for things to be sealed. As the court notes, there’s some irony in a defendant who is worried about her free speech rights being stifled, then seeking to keep her arguments secret:
Moreover, the Court notes an inconsistency in Defendant joining the instant motion. In her Second Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argued at length that Plaintiff’s lawsuit was directed at preventing her from publishing online news articles critical of Plaintiff’s business; this case was allegedly no more than an attempt to silence her speech. But with this Joint Motion, Plaintiff and Defendant want to keep the factual development of this case secret.
In the end, the judge says too bad to both parties, noting that they were the ones who went to the public court system to fight this out, and now they need to live with the consequences:
ln addition, the parties elected to seek (and defend) relief in a publicly operated forum, namely the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The proceedings held in federal and state courts are open to public observation by any interested party. Pursuant to Local Rule 5.4 for the Southern District of Florida, absent some extraordinary need for secrecy, the judicial acts performed should be open to public scrutiny
That statement may be a little unfair to the defendant, who didn’t really have that much “choice” in the matter, but it still seems odd to want to keep the proceedings secret.