An arbitration agreement may specify confidentiality, but does that term necessarily control and require sealing of subsequent proceedings in court? “No,” usually, is the answer according to a recent federal district court ruling in CAA Sports LLC v. Dogra, No. 4:18-cv-01887-SNLJ, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 214223 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 20, 2018). The key portion of the ruling is quoted below.
“But, in the context of arbitration, courts routinely reject arguments that arbitration awards and supporting documents should be sealed merely to honor the parties’ underlying confidentiality agreement related to their arbitration. See, e.g., Grynberg v. BP P.L.C., 205 F.Supp.3d 1, 3-4 (D.D.C. 2016); Redeemer Committee of Highland Credit Strategies Funds v. Highland Capital Management, L.P., 182 F.Supp.3d 128, 132-134 (S.D.N.Y. 2016); Amerisure Mut. Ins. Co. v. Everest Reinsurance Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153013, 2014 WL 5481107 *2 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 29, 2014); Century Indem. Co. v. AXA Belgium, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136472, 2012 WL 4354816 at *13-14 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2012); Zimmer, Inc. v. Scott, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77409, 2010 WL 3004237 at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 28, 2010); Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. Rite Aid Corp., 345 F.Supp.2d 497, 504 (E.D. Pa. 2004). Indeed, as aptly stated by Judge Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit “[p]eople who want secrecy should opt for arbitration. When they call on the courts, they must accept the openness that goes with subsidized dispute resolution by public (and publicly accountable) officials.” Union Oil Co. of California v. Leavell, 220 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2000).
With these principles in mind, the Court finds little reason to seal the documents in this case. CAA Sports’ only argument is that the parties are contractually bound to confidentiality. Be that as it may, and even if the confidentiality provision, by its terms, applied both to court proceedings and the [*5] underlying arbitration, it does not bind this Court—being an agreement solely between the parties. More importantly, though, CAA Sports does nothing to explain why its interest in the secrecy of the underlying arbitration with Dogra should outweigh the public’s competing interest in free access to the judicial functioning of this Court. There is, for example, no suggestion that the arbitration award and supporting materials contain personal identifying information, implicate innocent third parties, or contain routinely protected information such as trade secrets or proprietary data. In fact, CAA Sports cites no law favoring its position—it cites no law at all.”
Hat tip to the St. Louis Record for publishing a December 25, 2018 article regarding the ruling. As some will recall, Legal Newsline previously moved for and obtained orders requiring unsealing of records in the Garlock trial. The various “Record” publications and Legal Newsline are inter-related. See this about page. The same page also explains: “Legal Newsline is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.”