Court rules CN Genetic Partners cannot file disclosures under seal in suit over sperm purchase

By John Breslin | Mar 25, 2019

ST. LOUIS – A federal judge has denied two companies' motions to file disclosures of organizational interests under seal in a case over the purchase of sperm.

CN Genetic Partners is being sued along with CCB-MCB LLC and others over claims that the purchase of sperm led to birth defects in a child.

The companies asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to be allowed to file under seal their organizational interests, with CN Genetic Partners arguing that "it wished to protect the privacy of its individual members due to the amount of media attention surrounding this case." U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Judge John A. Ross denied the motions March 20.

Plaintiff Kendan Elliot, who filed the suit individually and on behalf of the child, opposed the defendants' motion, arguing that "sealing the disclosure of organizational interests interferes with the public’s access to judicial records and documents," the ruling states.

Ross noted in his ruling that there is "a common-law right of access to judicial records."

The U.S. Supreme Court, Ross added, has found that this right is not absolute, and provided the example of files can be sealed if they become a vehicle for scandal and spite, including in divorce case records.

While there is a "presumption of access" to records exceptions apply such as if they might be used for "improper purposes, such as to gratify private spite or promote public scandal, or that the disclosure of organizational interests harm defendants’ competitive standing," the ruling states.

Citing 8th Circuit precedent, Ross said there must be a compelling structural interest, and not a private one.

“'The mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant’s embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records,'" the 8th Circuit found, per the ruling.

Ross rejected CN Genetic Partners' argument that the "privacy interest of its members outweighs the presumption of public disclosure," and denied the request to file the information under seal.

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