In a proceeding seeking enforcement of an arbitration award, an Ohio magistrate judge recently ordered the unsealing of a motion for summary judgment (and supporting documents) despite the presence of a confidentiality order in the underlying arbitration. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Randall & Quilter Reins. Co., No. 2:07- cv-0120, 2007 WL 2326878 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 10, 2007). After Nationwide filed a petition to confirm the arbitration award, Randall & Quilter (“R & Q”) moved for leave to file a summary judgment motion under seal. The request to file under seal was made pursuant to a confidentiality order issued by the panel that “required” the parties to file papers in court “under seal, subject to court approval.” Id. at *1.

The court, noting that documents submitted in support of the motion were subject to the Panel’s confidentiality order, initially granted R & Q’s request the day it was filed. However, the Court reversed itself when Nationwide moved for reconsideration, concluding that R & Q “has not demonstrated good cause for filing documents in this Court under seal given the presumption which attaches to court proceedings (but not arbitration proceedings) that all documents filed in court will be open to the public.” Id.

The Court relied on Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Rite Aid Corp., 345 F. Supp. 2d 497 (E.D. Pa. 2004), which, it noted, raised “very similar issues.” Id. at *2. In Zurich, the court “relying upon the presumption of public access to documents filed in the district court, held that both the existence of the confidentiality order and the parties’ reliance on that order in producing documents, while a factor in determining whether an order to seal should be entered in the district court, were not outcome determinative.” Id. “Rather, the court [is] required to balance the public and private interests involved in determining whether documents should be filed under seal, with particular emphasis on whether the party seeking to have the documents sealed was able to identify and articulate a specific injury which would occur if the documents were made part of the public domain.” Id.

The Nationwide Court likewise determined that the arbitral confidentiality order relied on by R & Q was “simply one factor in the Court’s calculus and not outcome determinative.” Id. Significantly, “R & Q ha[d] pointed to no portion of the documents which it filed under seal . . . which would injure R & Q if made public.” Id. Indeed, to the contrary, R & Q had “specifically represent[ed] that it [was] not concerned about any injury to its reputation should any of the documents filed or exchanged during the arbitration find their way into the public domain.” Id. Under the circumstances, the Court concluded, “the public interest in access to court records outweighs any prejudice to R & Q from unsealing its filing.” Id.