United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander, United States District Judge.
Alia Salem Al-Sabah filed suit in March 2017 against multiple
defendants, including Jean Agbodjogbe; Nandi Scott; N&A
Kitchen, LLC; N&A Kitchen II, LLC; 5722 York Road, LLC; 9
Jewels, LLC; and ASA Foundation, Inc. ECF 1. She alleged,
inter alia, that Mr. Agbodjogbe
“orchestrated” a “scheme” by which he
“misappropriate[d] millions of dollars entrusted to
him” by plaintiff for “investment
opportunities” and for charity. Id. at 3. In a
nine-count Amended Complaint filed in November 2017 (ECF 76),
plaintiff alleges claims of fraudulent misrepresentation
(Count I); fraudulent concealment (Count II); conversion
(Count III); civil conspiracy (Count IV); detrimental
reliance (Count V); unjust enrichment (Count VI); breach of
contract (Count VII); and breach of agency duties (Count
VIII). Id. She also seeks a declaratory judgment
(Count IX). Id.
with the consent of plaintiff (ECF 77), Agbodjogbe moved to
file a proposed Counterclaim (ECF 78,
“Counterclaim”), along with a “Motion to
Seal Defendant Jean Agbodjogbe's Counterclaim.” ECF
79 (the “Motion”). No opposition has been filed,
and the time to do so has expired. See Local Rule
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall deny
case was referred to Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite on
July 5, 2017, for discovery matters. ECF 29. On August 7,
2017, with the consent of the parties, Judge Copperthite
signed an “Order Regarding Confidentiality of Discovery
Material.” ECF 65 (the “Order”). See
also ECF 30; ECF 61. In his Motion, Agbodjogbe argues
that the proposed Counterclaim “contains confidential
information, ” and that Judge Copperthite's Order
of August 7, 2017 (ECF 65), requires the filing of the
Counterclaim under seal. ECF 79, ¶¶ 1, 2.
Agbodjogbe has not identified the information in the proposed
Counterclaim that he believes is confidential.
Order governs the confidentiality of discovery materials.
See, e.g., ECF 65 at 1, ¶ 1. However, the Order
also contains a paragraph directed to confidential
information that is to be filed with Court. Id.
¶ 2. Specifically, the Order states: “To the
extent that . . . any pleading . . . disclosing [confidential
information is] proposed to be filed or [is] filed with the
Court, those materials and papers, or any portion thereof
which discloses confidential information, shall be filed
under seal (by the filing party) with the Clerk of the Court
with a simultaneous motion pursuant to L.R. 104.13(c)”
and “shall be governed by L.R. 105.11.”
Rule 104.13(c) states: “Any proposed confidentiality
order shall include . . . (c) a provision that whenever
materials subject to the confidentiality order (or any
pleading, motion or memorandum referring to them) are
proposed to be filed in the Court record under seal, the
party making such filing must simultaneously submit a motion
and accompanying order pursuant to L.R. 105.11 . . . .”
Rule 105.11 states (emphasis added):
Any motion seeking the sealing of pleadings, motions,
exhibits, or other documents to be filed in the Court record
shall include (a) proposed reasons supported by specific
factual representations to justify the sealing and (b)
an explanation why alternatives to sealing would not
provide sufficient protection. The Court will not rule
upon the motion until at least fourteen (14) days after it is
entered on the public docket to permit the filing of
objections by interested parties. Materials that are the
subject of the motion shall remain temporarily sealed pending
a ruling by the Court. If the motion is denied, the party
making the filing will be given an opportunity to withdraw
the materials. Upon termination of the action, sealed
materials will be disposed of in accordance with L.R. 113.
has not provided the Court with “reasons supported by
specific factual representations to justify sealing”
the entirety of his proposed Counterclaim. Id.;
see also ECF 79. As noted, Agbodjogbe merely states
that the “Counterclaim contains confidential
information.” ECF 79, ¶ 3. Nor has Agbodjogbe
provided the Court with any proposed alternative to sealing.
See Local Rule 105.11; ECF 79. Put differently,
Agbodjogbe has not even attempted to meet the minimum
requirements of Local Rule 105.11.
import here, the common law presumes the public and press
have a qualified right to inspect all judicial records and
documents. Doe v. Pub. Citizen, 749 F.3d 246, 265
(4th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted); Va. Dep't of
State Police v. Wash. Post, 386 F.3d 567, 575 (4th Cir.
2004), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 949 (2005); see
also Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S.
555, 580 n.17 (1980) (“[H]istorically both civil and
criminal trials have been presumptively open.”). The
common law right of access can be abrogated in “unusual
circumstances, ” where “countervailing interests
heavily outweigh the public interests in access.”
Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249,
253 (4th Cir. 1988); accord Minter v. Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A., 258 F.R.D. 118, 121 (D. Md. 2009).
common law right of access is buttressed by a “more
rigorous” right of access provided by the First
Amendment, which applies to a more narrow class of documents,
but is more demanding of public disclosure.
Rushford, 846 F.2d at 253. If a court record is
subject to the First Amendment right of public access, the
record may be sealed “only on the basis of a compelling
governmental interest, and only if the denial is narrowly
tailored to serve that interest.” Stone v.
University of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180
(4th Cir. 1988) (citing Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior
Court, 464 U.S. 501, 510 (1984)). “When presented
with a sealing request, our right-of-access jurisprudence
requires that a district court first ‘determine the
source of the right of access with respect to each document,
because only then can it accurately weigh the competing
interests at stake.'” Doe, 749 F.3d at 266
(4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Stone, 855 F.2d at 181).
Court notes that the Counterclaim contains personal
information that might be regarded as sensitive. However,
Agbodjogbe's request to seal the entire proposed
Counterclaim is overbroad. As noted, Agbodjogbe has not
identified any particular portion of the ...