BWG partner Craig LaChance persuaded a federal court today to modify a protective order in a massive, ongoing antitrust suit. BWG’s client, Aerotec International, sued Honeywell, alleging various violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. To facilitate discovery, the parties agreed to a blanket protective order at the outset of the case. Under the order, all the documents exchanged in discovery and all court proceedings were sealed. After years of discovery and millions of documents exchanged, the United States District Court of the District of Arizona granted summary judgment to Honeywell. Aerotec has appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
As part of the appeal, LaChance moved on behalf of Aerotec to modify the protective order and unseal all the documents associated with the summary judgment proceedings. He argued that because the documents had been submitted in a judicial proceeding they were now public documents and thus should be unsealed. Honeywell objected to disclosure of several sealed documents, contending they contained trade secrets and confidential business information, which, if released, could cause competitive harm. In a published opinion, the federal district court granted Aerotec’s motion to unseal, finding Honeywell had not shown compelling reasons as to why the documents should remain sealed; Honeywell did not articulate a specific harm nor show how this harm outweighed the public’s right to access to judicial documents. Accordingly, the court unsealed all the summary judgment documents.
UPDATE: Link to the court’s opinion.