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United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
February 25, 2009, Decided
Case No. 08-C-439
The parties have filed a stipulation asking that the affidavit (and attachments) of Cindy Broadwater be sealed in order to protect Plaintiff's privacy. The affidavit and its attachments comprise the record that this Court reviewed in order to determine whether Metropolitan's decision to terminate Plaintiff's disability benefits under his employer's ERISA-governed benefits plan was arbitrary or capricious. The Court's decision affirming Metropolitan's termination of benefits and its judgment dismissing the case was entered on February 9, 2009.
One can understand the desire to keep one's medical condition confidential. Yet, by placing his medical condition at issue in a civil lawsuit, Plaintiff has waived his right to keep his condition confidential. See Wis. Stat. § 905.04(4)(c). Moreover, the long-standing tradition in this country is that litigation is open to the public. [*2] Union Oil Co. of California v. Leavell, 220 F.3d 562, 567 (7th Cir. 2000). This has important implications for the understandable desire of parties to maintain confidentiality over their dispute:
What happens in the halls of government is presumptively public business. Judges deliberate in private but issue public decisions after public arguments based on public records. The political branches of government claim legitimacy by election, judges by reason. Any step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat, which requires compelling justification.
Id.; see also Hicklin Engineering, L.C. v. Bartell, 439 F.3d 346 (7th Cir. 2006)("What happens in the federal courts is presumptively open to public scrutiny.").
In this case, the affidavit and attachments the parties have agreed to seal set forth the factual basis for the Court's decision. They include both Metropolitan's claim file and the plan documents under which the claim was made. To seal them in their entirety would deprive the public of the ability to assess the reasonableness of the Court's decision. While it is doubtful that anyone but the parties would have any [*3] interest in the Court's determination of Plaintiff's claim, the fact that the record on which the decision was made is open to the public is one reason why the public can have confidence in the judicial process. A court is not likely to misrepresent the record if it is open for anyone who is interested to examine. The parties have provided no compelling justification to overcome the presumption of openness that attends such proceedings.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19405 *; 2009 WL 484231
MICHAEL BOETTCHER, Plaintiff, v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE CO., Defendant.
Prior History: Boettcher v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9739 (E.D. Wis., Feb. 9, 2009)
seal, parties, confidential, attachments, redacted, records, compelling justification, personal information, open to the public, medical condition, judicial process, public record, thirty days, birth date, terminate, benefits, happens, privacy