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Judge Davis Denies Non-Party's Motion for Confidential Treatment of Trial Decision

June 18, 2020

In Optical Air Data Systems, LLC v. L-3 Communications Corporation, C.A. No. N17C-05-619 EMD CCLD, Judge Davis denied non-party General Dynamics Corporation’s (“GDC”) Motion for Continued Confidential Treatment of Proposed Redactions in the court’s written decision after trial. GDC sought confidential treatment of the portions of the decision concerning an agreement between the plaintiff and Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, a subsidiary of GDC. In its motion, GDC argued that disclosure of the terms could result in commercial harm to Gulfstream and redactions were necessary because Gulfstream supplier contracts may have varying terms.

Judge Davis denied the motion, explaining that GDC failed to include a supporting affidavit explaining how the agreement contained proprietary or trade secret information, the parties only designated the agreement and trial transcript as “confidential,” and they did not seek to seal or restrict access to the courtroom during trial. The court noted that any member of the public or press could have attended the trial and heard testimony on the agreement’s terms.

Analysis: Delaware courts recognize that the press and public have a right of access to judicial proceedings and court records. This right has been recognized at common law, in Superior Court Civil Rule 5(g), and the Delaware Constitution. While the court recognized that GDC was a non-party and did not “consent” to the use of the agreement at trial, it could not override the constitutional principle that Delaware judicial proceedings and the court’s record are accessible to the public. The opinion provides helpful guidance on what materials the court views as necessary in considering a motion to maintain purportedly confidential information under seal.

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