United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se plaintiff Arkady Sardarian commenced this action
pursuant to the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5133,
et seq., the National Environmental Policy Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 4321, et seq., the
Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C.
§§ 701, et seq., and the Civil Rights Act
of 1871, 42 U.S. Code § 1983, to void the decision by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") in
July 2018 to terminate previously awarded Hazard Mitigation
Grant Program ("HMGP") funding for the elevation of
the lowest living area of his raised-ranch slab-on-grade
residence located in Westport, Connecticut. Doc. 1, ¶ 1.
Defendants in the action include FEMA, the Department of
Emergency Services and Public Protection ("A Division of
Connecticut, Emergency Management and Homeland
Security"), the Town of Westport, and a list of
individual defendants who are governmental officials in the
aforementioned and other agencies, in their official
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for
reconsideration [Doc. 37] of the Court's prior Ruling
[Doc. 34], denying without prejudice his motion to redact
personal information [Doc. 19], which he submitted in support
of his motion for appointment of counsel [Doc. 7].
Standard for Reconsideration
motion for reconsideration is an extraordinary request that
is granted only in rare circumstances, such as where the
court failed to consider evidence or binding authority."
Van Buskirk v. United Grp. of Companies, Inc., 935
F.3d 49, 54 (2d Cir. 2019). "The standard for granting
such a motion is strict, and reconsideration will generally
be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling
decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in
other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the
conclusion reached by the court." Id. (quoting
Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d
Cir. 1995)). Accordingly, "[t]he major grounds
justifying reconsideration are 'an intervening change of
controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the
need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest
injustice.'" Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v.
Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir.
1992) (quoting 18 C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 4478 at
well-settled that a motion for reconsideration "is not a
vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case
under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or
otherwise taking a 'second bite at the apple.'"
Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P.,
684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012), as amended (July 13,
2012) (quoting Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156 F.3d
136, 144 (2d Cir. 1998)). "Denials of motions for
reconsideration are reviewed only for abuse of
discretion." Id. (quoting Empresa Cubana
del Tabaco v. Culbro Corp., 541 F.3d 476, 478 (2d
Cir.2008) (per curiam)).
Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration
case at bar, Plaintiff moves the Court to reconsider its
denial, without prejudice, of his motion to redact personal
information he presented to the Court in support of his
motion for appointment of counsel. He presents what he terms
"clarifications and explanations" that he hopes
will convince the Court that his privacy interests in the
information "outweigh the public's interest in
obtaining [that] information." Doc. 37, at 1.
Plaintiff seeks to reargue his motion for redaction. He
requests once again that the Court redact information bearing
on the issue of whether he lacked sufficient funds to obtain
his own counsel and the circumstances he believed supported
his motion for appointed counsel. The Court declined to
appoint counsel for Plaintiff on June 19, 2019, because the
financial information he presented established plainly that
he was not indigent or "unable to afford counsel"
under the applicable statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1).
Doc. 12, at 9-10. He then moved to redact much of the
personal information he had presented. This information
related to his financial status, including: general sums for
his salary as a project engineer, earned income, taxes,
interest, dividends, rents, investments, savings, property,
and loans. Doc. 19-1, ¶¶ 3-7. He also sought to
redact his statements regarding certain family members who
rely on him for support, the fact that no member in his
household over age 18 is presently employed, his projections
for his financial status in future years, and the reasons he
attempted to secure counsel on a contingency basis.
Id. ¶¶ 8-10. Finally, Plaintiff requested
to redact the circumstances which he believed supported his
application for appointment of counsel, including, inter
alia, his need for a suitable attorney who is familiar
with court rules and procedure and his belief that his work
overseas will prevent him from attending to court-related
matters on a timely basis. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff
characterized all of this information he designated for
redaction as "personal" but failed to provide the
Court with a basis to redact or seal.
Ruling denying redaction, the Court explained the standard to
seal, noting that there is "a strong, long-established
presumption of public access to judicial documents, those
documents that are 'relevant to the performance of the
judicial function and useful in the judicial
process.'" Doc. 34, at 3 (quoting Lugosch v.
Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir.
2006) and collecting cases). The presumption of public access
is at its strongest when the documents at issue have
"been submitted as a basis for judicial decision
making." Id. (quoting Greater Miami
Baseball Club Ltd. P'ship v. Selig, 955 F.Supp. 37,
39 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)). A federal court may only seal a document
if "specific, on the record findings are made
demonstrating that 'closure is essential to preserve
higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that
interest.'" Id. at 4 (citing
Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1,
13-14 (1986) ("Press Enterprise II")).
Plaintiff's burden, as the party requesting sealing, to
demonstrate the grounds to seal each requested portion of his
documents. Id. (citing DiRussa v. Dean Witter
Reynolds, Inc., 121 F.3d 818, 826 (2d Cir. 1997)). To do
so, he was required to establish the particular prejudice or
harm resulting if the designated portions of his documents
were not sealed. Only then could the Court make the requisite
"particularized findings demonstrating that sealing is
supported by clear and compelling reasons and is narrowly
tailored to serve those reasons." D. Conn. L. Civ. R.
however, failed to present specific grounds to seal the
information at issue. The Court thus denied his motion to
seal, explaining that the information had been central to the
Court's ruling denying appointment of counsel. The
financial data presented had shown that Plaintiff did not
lack sufficient funds to obtain his own counsel. Plaintiff
had simply requested his information to be sealed as
"personal," perhaps due to his discomfort in
knowing that his finances had been exposed to public view.
The Court explained that "[t]he mere fact that some
level of discomfort, or even embarrassment, may result from
the dissemination of [the particular material] is not in and
of itself sufficient to establish good cause to support the
issuance of [a] protective order." Id. at 6
(quoting Flaherty v. Seroussi, 209 F.R.D. 295, 299
(N.D.N.Y. 2001)). In denying Plaintiff's motion to seal
without prejudice, the Court clarified that Plaintiff may
re-file his motion for redaction "with the
particularized grounds to seal any requested paragraph in a
supporting memorandum of law." Id. at 8.
than filing such an amended motion to redact, setting forth
the requisite particularized grounds for sealing designated
information, Plaintiff has filed the present motion for
reconsideration, asserting that the Court is mistaken in its
"current understanding" of the Plaintiff's
reason for submitting his financial information in the first
place. Doc. 37, at 2. He states that he is "well aware
that he is not indigent" and is "willing to pay
reasonable attorney[s'] fees from the proceeds of the
lawsuit along with reasonable retaining fee[s]."
Id. However, he moved for appointed counsel based on
language he read in the Court-issued "Guide for
Self-Represented Litigants"(revised Mar. 8, 2018)
(herein "Guide"). Id. at 2-3.
particular, Plaintiff notes that the Guide states that
"Counsel is appointed in a few select cases where the
court determines that representation by an attorney is
particularly appropriate or necessary"; and to qualify,
a self-represented litigant must "demonstrate that he
has made attempts to obtain representation or legal
assistance on his own, but was unsuccessful."
Id. at 2 (quoting Guide, at 16-17). Plaintiff thus
explains that he applied for appointment of counsel because
his "efforts to obtain qualified representation did not
yield any result." Id. He argues that there
"is no mention of the requirement of any party to be
indigent" to obtain counsel in the
"Court-appointed Counsel section of the
Guide." Id. at 3 (emphasis in original) (citing
Guide, at 16-17). He concludes "[i]n summary [that]
self-represented litigants are not informed that in order to
qualify for a Court appointed counsel, the applicants must be
indigent" or else he would have "refrained from
undertaking the effort to request a Court appointed
counsel." Id. at 3.
then spends five pages of his memorandum discussing and
summarizing Connecticut case law and various Connecticut
"Practice Book" sections regarding sealing in state
court. Unfortunately, Plaintiff, as a pro se
litigant, fails to comprehend that by filing his action in
federal court - as opposed to state court - only Federal
Rules and case precedent of the Second Circuit and United
States Supreme Court are binding on this Court's
Plaintiff states that he believed that when he filed his
motion for appointment of counsel on the case docket, it
would be "treated in strict confidentiality by the
Court" because he received "no warning . . . that
the divulged personal or financial information . . .[would]
become a matter of public record and remain in [the] public
domain." Id. at 7. He notes that in the
Guide, litigants are asked only to "partially redact
personal data identifiers from their pleadings" but
there is no language "alerting the self-represented
litigants from filing any other written sensitive personal
and financial information." Id. Therefore, the
language in the Guide "did not stop the Plaintiff from
disclosing confidential private information."
Id. at 8.
addition to taking issue with the Guide, Plaintiff faults the
Clerk's Office in failing to inform him of the
Court's "pilot program allowing attorneys to e-file
sealed motions and sealed documents in civil cases" and
in failing to warn him that "any confidential
information in the motion will become a matter of public
record." Id. Plaintiff thus asks the Court to
redact his "personal" information on the grounds
that he was "unintentionally led to publicly file his
confidential personal and financial information due to lack
of simple, easy-to-understood [sic] and ...