THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
Cite as In re Property of Joe,
6 FSM Intrm. 606 (Pohnpei 1994)
IN THE MATTER OF THE PROTECTION
OF THE PROPERTY OF JANE DOE,
a Protected Person, a Minor.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1994-133
ORDER SEALING RECORDS
Andon L. Amaraich
Decided: December 9, 1994
For Petitioner and Daniel J. Berman, Esq.
Respondent: Rush, Moore, Craven, Sutton, Morry & Beh
2000 Hawaii Tower
745 Fort Street
Honolulu, HI 96813-3862
Fredrick L. Ramp, Esq.
P.O. Box 1480
Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941
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Courts ) Records
A court's inherent supervisory power over its own records includes the discretion to seal those records if it determines that the public's right to access is outweighed by legitimate competing needs for privacy and confidentiality. In re Property of Doe, 6 FSM Intrm. 606, 607 (Pon. 1994).
Courts ) Records
A court will use a three step process designed to protect the public's interest in access to the its files to determine whether the records should be sealed: 1) the court will give the public adequate notice that the judicial records in question may be sealed; 2) the court will give all interested persons an opportunity to object; and 3) if, after considering all objections, the court decides that the records should be sealed, it will seal those records and state on the record the reasons supporting its decision. In re Property of Doe, 6 FSM Intrm. 606, 607 (Pon. 1994).
Courts ) Records
When the court has posted public notices throughout the state and no member of the public, nor any interested party, objected, and the court has found good cause shown, the records in a case may be sealed. In re Property of Doe, 6 FSM Intrm. 606, 607 (Pon. 1994).
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[6 FSM Intrm. 607]
ANDON L. AMARAICH, Associate Justice:
The parties in this action have reached a settlement of all pending claims. As part of this settlement, the parties have filed a stipulated motion requesting that this Court permanently seal all records reflecting the terms of their settlement as well as all court records relating to this action, including, but not limited to, all pleadings, motions, evidentiary submissions, and settlement proposals.
This Court, based on its inherent supervisory power over its own records, has the discretion to seal those records if it determines that the public's right to access is outweighed by legitimate competing needs for privacy and confidentiality. In re Knight Publishing Co., 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir. 1984). In reaching a determination as to whether the records in this case should be sealed, the Court will utilize a three step process designed to protect the public's interest in access to the Court's files in this case: 1) the Court will give the public adequate notice that the judicial records in question may be sealed; 2) the Court will give all interested persons an opportunity to object; and 3) if the Court decides, after considering all objections, that the records should be sealed, the Court will seal those records and state on the record the reasons supporting its decision. See Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988) (holding that these three steps are a procedural necessity designed to protect the public's right to access to court records).
Pursuant to the guidelines listed above, the Court posted public notices throughout the State of Pohnpei informing the public of the possible sealing of the records in this case. The notice also stated that any interested person, with an objection to the sealing of the records, should raise such objection with the Court prior to the date specified in the notice. No such objections were brought to the attention of the Court. Accordingly, the Court presumes no members of the public object to the sealing of the records in this case, and therefore will evaluate the merits of the parties request with this presumption in mind.
The petitioner in this case is a severely injured minor who will be receiving a substantial monetary award as compensation for her injuries. The public does not have any substantial interest in knowing the name of this minor nor in knowing the details of the financial settlement in this case. Conversely, unwanted and unwarranted public attention directed towards the minor, due to her financial position, will do little to aid in her mental and physical recovery, while doing much to impede her recovery. The Court finds that good cause has been shown for sealing these records and therefore orders the record sealed for twenty-five years. At a future date, the Court may evaluate the need for confidentiality and extend the period in which the records will be sealed. From this date forward, until the expiration of the seal on the records, no person may review or otherwise have access to the records in this case without having first obtained the permission of this Court.
It is hereby ordered that all court files in the above captioned case are sealed twenty-five years. It is further ordered that all entries in the docket book be altered or abbreviated so as to protect the identity of the parties.
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