City of Greenville v. Syngenta Crop Prot., LLC, No. 13-1626 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The herbicide atrazine is banned in the European Union but widely used in the U.S. Municipalities and water boards charged with filtering public drinking supplies sued Syngenta, which manufactures and distributes the chemical. Those claims were settled. During discovery Syngenta produced many documents. Two environmental groups intervened to assert that the public is entitled to see them. In a flawed attempt to comply with a protective order shielding discovery materials, plaintiffs had filed a response to Syngenta’s motion to dismiss and its exhibits under seal, but the protective order did not apply to materials filed in connection with a dispositive motion. The district court eventually unsealed 123 of the exhibits, preserving the seal on 242 that are either legitimately confidential or had not been cited in plaintiffs’ papers. Having decided not to read these documents, the judge observed that they could not have affected his decision and held that they need not be disclosed to the public. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 53 and 28 U.S.C.636(b)(2) permit the appointment of special masters to sort through swollen filings and identify material that does not belong in the record. The district judge in this case appropriately referred to a magistrate judge the question whether some documents, properly in the record, are legitimately confidential.