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Nwachukwu v. Liberty Bank

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 1, 2018

ANTHONY NWACHUKWU, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY BANK, Defendant

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR., Senior United States District Judge

         Pending are two defense Motions for Protective Order [Doc. 54, 59], regarding the ongoing discovery in this civil rights litigation. This ruling will resolve both.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Liberty Bank ("the Bank" or "Defendant") first requested a protective order by its Motion [Doc 54] of November 17, 2017. I deferred resolution of that Motion, by text order, on December 27, 2017:

The Court is in no position to adjudicate Defendant's present request, where Plaintiff has not provided the requests for production and/or interrogatories which occasioned Defendant's Motion, and where Defendant, for its part, has not complied with Local Rule 7(a)(1)'s requirement to provide a memorandum as to the disputed issues of law. Absent any information on the nature of discovery sought, and the legal basis for denying that discovery, the Court is unable to rule.

         By its renewed Motion [Doc. 59], Defendant asks the Court to enter a protective order, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1), in order to exclude certain materials from the Defendant's initial disclosures required of Defendant by Rule 26(a)(1), and to prospectively preclude the discovery of those same materials during the later stages of discovery. Plaintiff Anthony Nwachukwu ("Plaintiff") has filed an Objection [Doc. 61] to the instant Motion, and Defendant has filed a Reply [Doc. 62].

         Defendant argues that federal law and regulation

prohibit a financial institution from disclosing certain documents, which would otherwise be subject to disclosure under Rule 26(a)(1) or discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Without confirming or denying their existence, if Liberty Bank is in possession of documents encompassed by 12 U.S.C.A. § 3420 and 18 U.S.C. § 1510(b)(2), any disclosure thereof would violate the law and could subject the bank to criminal penalties.

         Def. Br. 4. Defendant therefore seeks "a Protective Order from this Court prohibiting the disclosure or discovery of documents or information which might otherwise be subject to disclosure under Rule 26(a)(1), or other discovery." Defendant is asking for two forms of protection: first, specific relief from the requirements of initial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(1), and, second, prospective and broader protection from anticipated interrogatories and requests for production. Defendant's reply brief attempts to clarify and particularize these alternate bases for protection:

The Defendant filed the Motion for Protective Order in conjunction with its disclosures under Rule 26(a)(1) so as to prohibit the disclosure of discovery of certain documents, should they exist. The Motion for Protective Order was not filed in response to the Plaintiff's interrogatories or requests for production. The impetus for its filing was the requirements of 26(a)(1), which could potentially require a party to violate the law by requiring the disclosure of certain protected documents. Liberty Bank acknowledges that the Protective Order might extend to information or documents also sought in Plaintiff's discovery. However, Defendant intends to respond or object to Plaintiff's discovery in course. The Protective Order is merely an attempt to deal with potential disclosure conflicts that may exist. In that sense, it is reactive to Rule 26(a)(1) and proactive concerning expected discovery.

Doc. 62 at 1-2.

         II. STANDARD FOR ISSUANCE OF PROTECTIVE ORDER

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), "[a] party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective order in the court where the action is pending . . . . The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense."[1]

         "Rule 26(c) confers broad discretion on the trial court to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required." In re Zyprexa Injunction, 474 F.Supp.2d 385, 415 (E.D.N.Y.2007) (quoting Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984)). "The touchstone of the court's power under Rule 26(c) is the requirement of 'good cause.' The party wishing to seal materials bears the burden of demonstrating good cause as to why the material should be concealed from the public." Gomez v. Resurgent Capital Servs., LP, 129 F.Supp.3d 147, 152-53 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (Sweet, J.). See also Penthouse Int'l, Ltd. v. Playboy Enters., 663 F.2d 371, ...


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