Law School Case Brief
Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky - 251 F.R.D. 573 (W.D. Wash. 2008)
In order to establish good cause for issuance of a protective order, the party seeking protection bears the burden of showing that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted. Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy the Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) test. If a court finds particularized harm will result from disclosure of information to the public, it then balances the public and private interests to decide whether a protective order is necessary.
Plaintiff employees sought a protective order that limited access to information identifying their current or former employers to litigants and their counsel. The employees feared that their employers would terminate them if their participation in the litigation concerning the availability of Plan B, which was closely related to the abortion issue, attracted the anticipated picketing or boycotting.
Did good cause exist for the issuance of protective order in favor of the plaintiffs?
The court granted the motion for a protective order as to information regarding current employers but denied the motion as to former employers. The court was satisfied that the employees met their burden and showed good cause why a protective order was necessary. Their motion presented a very narrow concern about the viability of their current employment should their employers be targeted by pickets or boycotts, and they substantiated their argument with a specific example and articulated reasoning that satisfied Rule 26(c). The court also found that there was no countervailing public interest favoring disclosure of their employers’ identity or location. The debate over Plan B was of great interest to the public, while the identity of the employers was not. Public health would not be harmed because the public was already informed of the identity of pharmacies where Plan B was not available.
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