Brief Fact Summary.
The Post Star sought to access draft settlement documents for ongoing negotiations between Plaintiff and Defendants.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Public access to settlement negotiations can be denied when settlement of the case is in the public interest.
The judge cannot act upon these discussions or documents until they are final, and the judge may not be privy to all of them.View Full Point of Law
The Environmental Protection Agency (Plaintiff) sued General Electric Company and the Town of Moreau, New York (Defendants) for industrial waste that contaminated an aquifer. For ten years the parties negotiated remedies to the contamination and entered a confidentiality order through the District Court to prevent public disclosure of the negotiation documents before final settlement. The Post Star sought access to the draft settlement documents.
Can a court deny public access to draft settlement documents?
Yes, a court can deny public access to draft settlement documents. The lower court is affirmed.
The Court determined that the draft settlement documents should remain confidential because it would further the federal interest in settlement of suits affecting the public interest. Release of the materials to the public and press would interfere with the settlement.