The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo
Presently before the Court is the Motion for Modification of or Relief From Stipulated Protective Order brought by Defendants Mid-Atlantic Youth Services, Corp., PA Child Care, LLC, and Western PA Childcare, LLC (together, the "Provider Defendants") and joined by Defendant Sandra Brulo. Because there was good cause to issue the Protective Order and it was relied upon by the Juvenile Plaintiffs, the motion will be denied.
This consolidated action stems out of an alleged conspiracy in which two former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, accepted payments from various individuals and corporations for the purpose of facilitating the construction of juvenile detention facilities and then took steps to ensure that a disproportionate number of juveniles were incarcerated in those facilities.Plaintiffs in the action are all juveniles or the parents of juveniles who appeared before Mr. Ciavarella.
On July 23, 2009, I signed a Stipulated Protective Order that had been negotiated by the parties. The Protective Order limits the disclosure of certain discovery documents, including records of Plaintiffs' juvenile adjudications. In particular, the Protective Order states that:
For all plaintiffs, regardless of age, no receiving party shall disclose any information regarding a specific juvenile protected by the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Act . . . in any public filings or in any public forum other than trial or hearing, in accordance with Paragraph 11. Any information regarding a specific juvenile protected by the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Act . . . but to which a plaintiff is entitled to inspection under such provisions, produced by plaintiffs or by a non-party to the above-captioned actions, shall be treated as . . . Attorneys' Eyes Only Material by plaintiffs for purposes of paragraph 8.
Stipulated Protective Order, Doc. 205 ¶ 1. Under paragraph 8 of the Protective Order, disclosure of Attorneys' Eyes Only Material is limited to counsel for the receiving party, employees and agents of counsel, the Court, and any deponent who it appears "authored or received a copy of [the material]" or "was or was alleged to be involved in the subject matter described therein or is employed by the party who produced the [material]." Id.
¶¶ 5(b)-(f); 8. The Protective Order reserved the parties' rights to move the Court for modification of or relief from any of its terms. Id. ¶ 14.
On October 29, 2009, and March 29, 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated and dismissed with prejudice the adjudications of all juveniles who appeared before former judge Ciavarella between 2003 and May 2008, ordering that all records relating to these adjudications be expunged. In re J.V.R., 81 M.M. 2008, Order ¶ 3-4 (Pa. Oct. 29, 2009); id. Order ¶ 3 (Pa. Mar. 29, 2010). The Court stated that "neither the victims, the juveniles, nor the community will benefit by having new proceedings in cases of juveniles who have received final discharge either from commitment, placement, probation or any other disposition and referral, and who have paid all fines, restitution, and fees." Id., Order (Oct. 29, 2009).
The Provider Defendants, joined by Defendant Sandra Brulo, filed a motion for relief from or a modification to the Protective Order on July 27, 2011. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
The Third Circuit held in Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg that when considering a motion to modify a protective order, a court must "use the same balancing test that is used when determining whether to grant such orders in the first instance." 23 F.3d 772, 790 (3d Cir. 1994). Protective orders should be granted in the first instance where "good cause" exists, considering the following factors:
1) whether disclosure will violate any privacy interests;
2) whether the information is being sought for a legitimate purpose or ...