United States District Court, D. Maryland
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex rel. ELGASIM MOHAMED FADLALLA, et al., Plaintiffs,
DYNCORP INTERNATIONAL, LLC et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
filed this qui tam action on June 19, 2015, on
behalf of the United States, against numerous business
entities that contracted to provide linguistic services to
the United States military forces in the Middle East. ECF No.
After prolonged investigation and deliberation, the United
States declined to intervene. ECF No. 29. The United States
requests that it be served with all pleadings, notices of
appeal, and Court orders in this case, and that the Court
unseal only the Complaint, the Notice of Election to Decline
Intervention, and the proposed Order with all other filings
remaining sealed. Id. at 2-3. The Court grants the
United States' request for service of pleadings, notices
of appeal, and Court orders, but denies the request for
limited continuous sealing.
the False Claims Act, private parties may bring suit in the
name of the United States. Am. Civil Liberties Union v.
Holder, 673 F.3d 245, 248 (4th Cir. 2011). The private
parties, known as qui tam relators, initially must
file the complaint under seal. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2).
Sealing protects the United States' investigation while
the government determines whether to intervene in the action.
Under Seal v. Under Seal, 326 F.3d 479, 486 (4th
Cir. 2003) (citing United States ex rel. Lujan v. Hughes
Aircraft Co., 67 F.3d 242, 245 (9th Cir. 1995)). If the
United States declines to intervene, it can elect to receive
copies of all pleadings. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(3). The
United States may also prevent the action from being
dismissed. Id. § 3730(b)(1).
the United States decides whether to intervene, “the
qui tam complaint and docket sheet are unsealed.”
Holder, 673 F.3d at 247. This is in keeping with the
general presumption that the public enjoys free and
unfettered access to Court records. Nixon v. Warner
Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). To justify
continued sealing of qui tam court records, the risk
of disclosure must outweigh the public benefits in access to
court records. United States ex rel. Littlewood v. King
Pharm., Inc., 806 F.Supp.2d 833, 843 (D. Md. 2011).
court is persuaded that continued sealing would be justified
upon a showing that the particular pleading either includes
confidential investigative techniques, jeopardizes an ongoing
investigation, or risks injury to non-parties. Id.
at 843 (quoting United States ex rel. Mikes v.
Straus, 846 F.Supp. 21, 23 (S.D.N.Y. 1993)). By
contrast, if the pleading “merely disclose[s] routine
investigative procedures which anyone with rudimentary
knowledge of the investigative processes would assume would
be utilized in the regular course of business and contain[s]
no information about specific investigatory techniques,
” then the pleading ought to be unsealed. King
Pharm., 806 F.Supp.2d at 843 (quoting Mikes,
846 F.Supp. at 23) (internal quotations omitted); see
also United States ex rel. Yannacopolous v. Gen.
Dynamics, 457 F.Supp.2d 854, 860 (N.D. Ill. 2006).
pleadings that the United States seeks to maintain under seal
consist primarily of motions for extensions of time. These
motions summarize information originally included in the
Amended Complaint, which will be unsealed with the United
States' assent. ECF No. 29 at 3. The remaining portions
of these pleadings refer to such routine investigative
matters as the numbers of subpoenas issued, witnesses
interviewed, and pages of documents reviewed. See,
e.g., ECF No. 24 at 4. The motions also refer to general
discussions with defense counsel, but do not disclose the
content of such conversations. See, e.g., ECF No. 17
at 4. Nor does a generalized reference to the process for
obtaining final authorization regarding intervention justify
continued sealing. In short, none of the pleadings
“implicate specific people or provide any substantive
details” about the investigative or decision-making
efforts beyond memorializing routine investigative steps
involved in any such process. See Yannacopolous, 457
F.Supp.2d at 859 (quoting United States v. CACI
Int'l, Inc., 885 F.Supp. 80, 83 (S.D.N.Y. 1995))
(internal quotation marks omitted). The pleadings, therefore,
must be unsealed.
arguing to the contrary, the United States summarily contends
that sealing is warranted because the motions “are
provided by law to the Court alone for the sole purpose of
evaluating whether the seal and time for making an election
to intervene should be extended.” ECF No. 29 at 3.
Notably, the United States offered a near identical rationale
in King Pharm., 806 F.Supp.2d at 843, which was
rightfully rejected as “conclusory and
unpersuasive.” Id. The argument has not
improved the second time around. Accordingly, the United
States has not rebutted the presumption that court records
remain public. King Pharm., 806 F.Supp.2d at 838.
above-stated reasons, the case in its entirety will be
unsealed. The Court is mindful, however, that the case has
not yet begun in earnest against Defendants, and that the
United States or Defendants may wish to provide additional
bases for sealing some or all of the filings. Although the
Court does not see a path to continued sealing at this
juncture, it will stay the effect of this Order for 30 days
to allow any interested party to move for reconsideration.
The United States may solicit the views of any interested
party and submit any additional facts or grounds in support
of continued sealing.
foregoing reasons, the Court grants the United States'
request to receive copies of all pleadings, notices of
appeal, and Court orders. The United States' request to
permanently seal all docket items besides the Complaint, the
Notice of Election to Decline Intervention, and the proposed
Order is denied; the case record and docket will be unsealed.
A separate Order follows.
 This Memorandum Opinion was
originally filed under seal on October 10, 2018 (ECF No. 31),
accompanied by an Order staying the unsealing of this case
for thirty days, to permit any interested party to file for
reconsideration. ECF No. 32. Relators, unopposed, moved the
Court to modify its Order to unseal the Amended Complaint,
Notice of Declination to Intervene, and Proposed Order. ECF
No. 33. The Court granted Relators' motion and partially
unsealed the case. ECF No. 34. Thirty days have passed since
the Court's modified Order directing any interested party
to show cause why the remainder of the case should not be
unsealed. Thus, on December 14, 2018, the Court ordered the
unsealing of the entire case. The text of this version of the
Memorandum Opinion is identical to the version that was filed
under seal on October 10, 2018, with the exception of the
addition of this footnote and the date of the
Relators also filed a claim
under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
ECF No. 9 ¶¶ 548-93 . Because this claim is not on
behalf of the United ...