TIG Ins. Co. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, P.A., No. 19 Civ. 10238 (PAE), 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 205120 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2019).

A New York federal court addressed an unopposed petition to confirm an arbitration award and an unopposed motion to seal the arbitration award and redact sections of the petition. Although the applications were unopposed, the court went through the confirmation analysis (and granted confirmation) and the request to seal in some detail. Following a long line of cases in the New York federal courts (the court cited seven cases), the court denied the motion to seal and ordered the parties to file unredacted copies of the award and petition. 

The parties relied on a confidentiality agreement as the basis for the motion to seal. In rejecting the confidentiality agreement as a basis to seal, the court said that the confidentiality agreement was not binding on the court. Moreover, said the court, the confidentiality agreement did not by its terms require that the matter proceed under seal. 

The court quoted most of the language from the confidentiality agreement, noting it provided that “information may be” disclosed in court proceedings and that sealing was subject to the court’s approval. Thus, said the court, “as the plain text of the agreement acknowledges, it is up to the Court independently to determine whether the parties’ desire to seal the arbitration information in this petition overcomes the weighty presumption that the ‘public should have access to the proceedings and documents of courts.’” (citations omitted). In detail, the court went through the three-step test to see if the parties overcame the presumption of public access and found that it was not even close. The court concluded, “by availing themselves of the judicial process, the parties must also contend with the values of transparency and public access which undergird its legitimacy.” (citations omitted).