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Richardson v. City of Newark

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 24, 2019

RAHMON RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEWARK, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER TO SEAL

          HON. LEDA DUNN WETTRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court by way of defendants' motion to seal pursuant to L. Civ. R. 5.3(c). ECF No. 131. Plaintiff opposes the motion in part. Id. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an action arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), in which plaintiff alleges that the City of Newark's failure to provide adequate training and supervision to its police officers caused a willful violation of plaintiff s constitutional rights. See ECF No. 1. Throughout discovery, defendants have produced Internal Affairs ("IA") files and its officers have discussed those files in a number of depositions. Defendants now seek to seal the IA files and depositions discussing their contents, attached as exhibits to the parties' summary judgment motion papers.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Third Circuit holds that "there is a presumptive right of public access to pretrial motions of a nondiscovery nature, whether preliminary or dispositive, and the material filed in connection therewith." Leucadia, Inc. v. Applied Extrusion Techs., Inc., 998 F.2d 157, 164 (3d Cir. 1993). Local Civil Rule 5.3 provides that the Court may otherwise restrict public access to materials filed with the Court and judicial proceedings upon a motion to seal sufficiently

describe[ing] with particularly: (a) the nature of the materials or proceedings at issue; (b) the legitimate private or public interests which warrant the relief sought; (c) the clearly defined and serious injury that would result if the relief sought is not granted, and (d) why a less restrictive alternative to the relief sought is not available.

         L. Civ. R. 5.3(c)(3).

         III. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         Defendants seek to seal three categories of documents, which the Court will address in turn:

         1. IA files at ECF Nos. 117-11, Ex. 1, 127-3, 127-4, and 127-5.

a. The IA files and their contents contain information maintained by the Newark Police Department as confidential, the disclosure of which could result in danger to the officers involved, the chilling of witness participation in the internal affairs process, and the disclosure of confidential investigative techniques. The Attorney General of New Jersey has determined that the nature and source of internal allegations and their resulting materials should be treated as confidential information. See Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures, https://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/agguide/internal.pdf (last visited April 23, 2019).
b. Defendants have a legitimate interest in protecting the files from public disclosure and would suffer a clearly defined injury if the information were to be made public.
c. There is no less restrictive alternative available other than to seal the contents of the files. The Court will only seal only that ...

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