In an opinion yesterday, Judge Batts unsealed certain confidential settlement agreements (now available here) relating to harassment claims against former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. The plaintiffs are parties to those agreements and their suit (see our previous covered here) claims that O’Reilly defamed them by calling them “smear merchants” and otherwise implying that their grievances against him were unfounded.
Judge Batts concluded that the settlements were “judicial documents” that were subject to a presumption of public access. She rejected O’Reilly’s arguments that there were countervailing considerations that merited keeping the documents under seal:
Defendant first argues that the Agreements are “private agreement[s], which . . . the Parties intended to keep confidential.” . . . . Yet Courts in this District have long held that bargained for confidentiality does not overcome the presumption of access to judicial documents.
Defendant next makes the conclusory assertion that the Agreements concern “embarrassing conduct with no public ramifications.” Defendant does not explain what conduct may, or may not, be embarrassing or the public ramifications of that conduct.