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United States v. Glens Falls Newspapers

    Brief Fact Summary.

    When an aquifer beneath a landfill became contaminated as a result of industrial waste by General Electric Company (GE), the Environmental Protection Agency sued the Town of Moreau, New York (Moreau) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, & Liability Act (Superfund).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A federal court can deny public access to settlement negotiations that are currently in litigation, even if it is in the public interest.

    Facts.

    When an aquifer beneath a landfill became contaminated as a result of industrial waste by General Electric Company (GE), the Environmental Protection Agency sued the Town of Moreau, New York (Moreau) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, & Liability Act (Superfund). The State of New York was granted intervention and litigation continued for nine years while the parties sought to negotiate a settlement. The parties asked the district to issue a confidentiality order and the district court granted the request. The Post Star sought access to the settlement documents and was denied access due to the consent order. The district court denied the Post Star’s motion to intervene to have the consent order rescinded.

    Issue.

    Whether a federal court can deny public access to settlement negotiations that are currently in litigation, even if it is in the public interest?

    Held.

    Yes. The order denying intervention is affirmed. Making the settlement negotiations public would endanger the settlement and will not be in the public interest. The trial court may keep the settlement negotiations closed in order to advance the resolution of the case.

    Discussion.

    A federal court can deny public access to settlement negotiations that are currently in litigation, even if it is in the public interest.


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