Whitney v. J.M. Scott Associates Inc.
Practice Book §11-20A(c) permits sealing, if necessary "to preserve an interest which is determined to override the public's interest in viewing such materials." Allegedly, the plaintiff, Walter Whitney, worked at a bank as a senior officer and had business dealings with the defendant, James Scott. In March 2002, Whitney allegedly agreed to work for James Scott at Scott Swimming Pools Inc., pursuant to a five-year employment contract, and to be in charge of business planning and development. The written contract provided that the defendants could discharge Whitney only if they possessed "adequate cause," which was defined as criminal acts, dishonesty or breach of employment duties. The plaintiff employee received 20 shares of stock and a stock option purchase contract that provided that in April 2007 he could purchase outstanding shares of stock for $1.2 million. The plaintiff was discharged in December 2006. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants attempted to end the plaintiff's employment early, to prevent the plaintiff from exercising his right to purchase outstanding stock, and that the defendants anticipatorily breached the employment contract. An attempt to arbitrate the plaintiff's claims in January 2007 was unsuccessful. The plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging that they breached the contract, engaged in fraud and violated CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. At trial the parties disputed the value of Scott's companies and who was responsible for profitability at the companies. Following a 17-day trial, the defendants moved to seal approximately 62 exhibits, to prevent the disclosure to competitors, tenants, government entities, employees, and contractors of private and sensitive financial information concerning the defendants' financial and business affairs. The exhibits include corporate financial statements, tax returns, officer's meeting minutes, transcripts of depositions and environmental clean up documents. The presumption of "openness of court proceedings . . . is a fundamental principle of our judicial system, pursuant to Bank of New York v. Bell, a decision of the Connecticut Appellate Court. The documents that the defendants seek to seal are judicial documents that the court will consider when reaching a decision. The documents do not contain trade secrets, and the court found that the defendants failed to carry their burden to prove that the court should seal the documents.