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Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

January 11, 1994, Argued ; May 2, 1994, Filed

No. 93-7396

Opinion

 [*775] OPINION OF THE COURT

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal raises several questions of first impression in this court concerning the ability of intervenors to challenge orders of confidentiality pertaining to settlement agreements. These questions are extremely important in light of the widespread and increasing use by district courts of confidentiality orders to facilitate settlements, and the consequential sacrifice of public access [**2]  to the information deemed confidential by such orders.

Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. ("Ottaway"), The Pocono Record ("the Record"), Ronald F. Bouchard and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association (collectively, "the Newspapers") filed this action in the district court seeking to intervene in an action that had been settled between John A. Pansy and the Borough of Stroudsburg ("the Borough"). The Newspapers' purpose for intervening was to gain access to the Settlement Agreement which was entered into between Pansy and the Borough. The Newspapers argued that either the Agreement was a judicial record to which it had a right of access, or that the Order of Confidentiality which the court entered concerning the Agreement should be modified or vacated. The district court ruled that the Newspapers' motion for intervention was untimely. In the alternative, the district court held that the Agreement was not a judicial record, and therefore not accessible under the right of access doctrine. The district court denied the Newspapers' Motion to Intervene and Motion to Reconsider, Vacate or Modify the Order of Confidentiality. This appeal followed.

For the reasons stated below, we will reverse [**3]  the order of the district court and direct that the Newspapers be permitted to intervene. We will remand the case to the district court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

 [*776] JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

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23 F.3d 772 *; 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 9389 **; 22 Media L. Rep. 1641; 28 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1129

JOHN A. PANSY, Plaintiff/Appellee, v. BOROUGH OF STROUDSBURG; HAROLD A. BENTZONI; KATHRYN MIKELS; JOHN W. OSBORNE, II; WILLIAM REBER; MARY JEAN KNAPIK; MARYANN WEST KOWALSHYN; RICHARD F. OSSWALD; CARL R. ROGERS Defendants/Appellees, v. OTTAWAY NEWSPAPERS, INC. t/a POCONO RECORD, RONALD F. BOUCHARD; PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, Intervenors/Appellants.

Subsequent History: As Corrected May 4, 1994.

Prior History:  [**1]  On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. D.C. Civ. No. 91-00682

CORE TERMS

confidentiality, settlement agreement, district court, parties, confidentiality order, judicial record, access rights, settlement, orders, modify, protective order, documents, courts, right to know, freedom of information, discovery, seal, disclosure, intervene, intervenors, Vacate, good cause, cases, court of appeals, circumstances, secrecy, rights, state court, articulate, terms

Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Standing, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Parties, Intervention, Injury in Fact, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Motions to Intervene, De Novo Review, Conditional Right to Intervene, Permissive Intervention, Intervention of Right, Time Limitations, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Types of Contracts, Settlement Agreements, Governments, Courts, Court Records, Contracts Under Seal, Settlements, Settlement Agreements, Enforcement, Effect of Agreements, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Torts, Products Liability, Privacy, Authority to Adjudicate, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Protective Orders, Methods of Discovery, Trade Secrets Law, Civil Actions, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Motions to Compel, Modification of Agreements, Administrative Law, Governmental Information, Freedom of Information