United States District Court, D. Colorado
NEIMIAH MCGEE, ANTHONY URNBERG, FOUDOU ADAM, FREDRICK A. NICOLOSI, OUSMAN ABOUDOU, MALACHI MCGEE, JONAH KALILI, RAUL YANEZ-SANDOVAL, JOEL KLASSEN, and SOLOMON DEBRETSION, Plaintiffs,
PILOT THOMAS LOGISTICS, LLC, Defendant.
RAYMOND P. MOORE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), the Colorado Wage Act, and common law.
(ECF No. 31.) This matter is before the Court on the
“Joint Motion to Restrict Access to Settlement
Agreement and Plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs [ECF Nos. 54 and 55]” (the “Joint
Motion”) (ECF No. 56) filed by Defendant Pilot Thomas
Logistics, LLC and Plaintiffs Neimiah McGee, Anthony Urnberg,
Foudou Adam, Fredrick A. Nicolosi, Malachi McGee, Jonah
Kalili, Raul Yanez-Sandoval, and Solomon Debretsion
(collectively, the “Parties”). The Joint Motion
requests a Level 1 restriction for the following two
documents: (1) the Parties' Settlement Agreement and
Release of Claims (the “Agreement”) (ECF No. 54);
and (2) Plaintiffs' Petition for Approval of
Attorneys' Fees and Costs (the “Petition for
Fees”) (ECF No. 55). For the reasons stated herein, the
Joint Motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Parties have reached a settlement of this action and now seek
approval from this Court. At issue is the Parties'
request to seal the two above-referenced documents. The
Parties' arguments in support of the requested
restriction appear to be based on the following: (1)
confidentiality of the Agreement is a material term agreed to
by the Parties; (2) the terms of the Agreement were derived
from confidential facts concerning Defendants' business
and employee wages; (3) disclosure of the terms which the
Parties desire be confidential would discourage settlement of
wage and hour cases, contrary to the public policy of
encouraging settlements; (4) courts have frequently granted
leave to file an FLSA settlement agreement under seal upon
joint motion; and (5) the Parties agree the Agreement and
Petition for Fees should be filed as restricted to protect
their “confidentiality.” The Parties also assert
that, as the terms of the Agreement are intended to be kept
confidential, a less restrictive alternative to sealing is
not practicable. The Court examines these arguments in light
of the law and the documents at issue.
have long recognized a common-law right of access to judicial
records, ' but this right ‘is not
absolute.'” JetAway Aviation, LLC v. Bd. of
Cty. Comm'rs of Cty. of Montrose, Colo., 754 F.3d
824, 826 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Mann v.
Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir. 2007)). Courts
may exercise discretion and restrict a public's right to
access judicial records if that “‘right of access
is outweighed by competing interests.'”
Id. (quoting Helm v. Kansas, 656 F.3d 1277,
1292 (10th Cir. 2011)). In exercising that discretion, the
court “‘weigh[s] the interests of the public,
which are presumptively paramount, against those advanced by
the parties.'” United States v. Dillard,
795 F.3d 1191, 1205 (10th Cir. 2015) (quoting Crystal
Grower's Corp. v. Dobbins, 616 F.2d 458, 461 (10th
presumption against restriction may be overcome if the party
seeking to restrict access to records “articulate[s] a
real and substantial interest that justifies depriving the
public of access to the records that inform [the court's]
decision-making process.” JetAway, 754 F.3d at
826 (quotation marks and citation omitted); Pine Tele.
Co. v. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., 617 Fed.Appx. 846, 852
(10th Cir. 2015) (unpublished) (showing of “some
significant interest” required). “[A] generalized
allusion to confidential information” is insufficient.
JetAway, 754 F.3d at 827.
addition to these general rules, restrictions in this
district are also governed by D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.2. The party
seeking restriction of public access to a document must also
comply with this Local Rule and demonstrate that restriction
The Petition for Fees.
than a conclusory statement that the restriction is needed to
protect its confidentiality, there are neither facts nor
argument to support that anything contained in the Petition
for Fees should be kept confidential. Indeed, the Petition is
short, cites the standard for evaluating fees, but then
contains very little factual information to support the fees
requested. If it is the amount requested which the Parties
contend is confidential, the Parties cite no law to support
why it is so. Further, if it is the amount which should be
restricted, the Parties provide no reason why redaction of
the amount would be insufficient. Accordingly, on this
record, the Parties have not met their burden.
Parties raise a number of related arguments but, on this
record, they are insufficient. First, the Tenth Circuit has
stated, “[t]he Court recognizes that preserving the
confidentiality of settlement agreements may encourage
settlement, and that denying a motion to seal may chill
future settlement discussions.” Colony Ins. Co. v.
Burke, 698 F.3d 1222, 1241 (10th Cir. 2012). The Parties
contend this is so - that the failure to restrict public
access would discourage FLSA settlements - but offer no
evidence to support it is so. Moreover, this contention may
be contradicted by the fact that numerous FLSA settlement
agreements contain no confidentiality provision, have been
filed unrestricted, and/or have been filed redacted. See,
e.g., Baker v. Vail Resorts Mgmt. Co., No.
13-cv-01649-PAB-CBS, 2014 WL 700096, at *2 (D. Colo. Feb. 24,
2014) (no confidentiality provision); Anderson v.
Walgreen Co., No. 14-cv-02642-RM-MJW, 2016 WL 74934, at
*3 (D. Colo. Jan. 7, 2016) (request to withdraw motion to
restrict settlement agreement with confidentiality
provision); Cooper v. OFS 2 Deal 2, LLC, No.
15-cv-01291-RM-NYW, 2016 WL 1071002, at *3 (D. Colo. Mar. 17,
2016) (public access to redacted settlement agreement).
party's interest in keeping the terms of their agreements
confidential, standing alone, may be insufficient to outweigh
the public's interest of access to court documents.
SeeColony Ins. Co., 698 F.3d at 1241
(denial of request to seal settlement agreements containing
confidentiality provisions where parties placed agreements at
center of the controversy). Were it otherwise, the common-law