11th Circuit Says Too Many Docs Sealed In KidKraft Antitrust Case

On Tuesday a US appeals court in an antitrust ruling cautioned against efforts to broadly seal information in court filings.

The Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling about competition in the toy industry that it was including it its decision pieces of information that it had earlier accepted under seal at the parties’ request. The court said information that otherwise was already public or would not harm a proprietary interest should not be shielded.

The underlying dispute involved the market for wooden play kitchens, and a three-judge panel upheld a ruling that said Dallas-based KidKraft had not conspired to violate federal antitrust law with the private equity firm that controls the company. Some of the information that was sealed included market share and industry rankings.

“Much of the information that was redacted should not have been,” Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote for the panel, including Judges Robin Rosenbaum and Andrew Brasher.

Companies and other parties are allowed to take steps to minimize or block disclosure of information that they consider confidential business details. Judges balance those requests with the presumption that court records are subject to a public right of access.

Transparency advocates have long complained about a lack of uniform procedure in the federal court when it comes to sealing information. UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, who tracks transparency in the courts, in 2020 said “records are still sometimes sealed erroneously, for reasons that fall short of what the public access precedents require.”

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