United States District Court, E.D. Virginia
JUDY A. ROBBINS, Appellant,
JOHN W. TRIPP, Appellee
Clinton Frederick Mack, Debtor, Pro se, Mobile, AL.
Vanessia Elizabeth Mack, Debtor, Pro se, Mobile, AL.
For Judy A. Robbins, United States Trustee, Region 4, Appellant: Kenneth Nicholson Whitehurst, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the U.S. Trustee, Norfolk, VA; Noah Mariano Schottenstein, U.S. Department of Justice (G St), Washington, DC.
For John W. Tripp, Appellee: Andrew K Rudiger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kaufman & Canoles PC (Norfolk), Norfolk, VA; Paul Kevin Campsen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kaufman & Canoles PC, Norfolk, VA.
OPINION AND ORDER
HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter is before the Court on the Appeal of the United States Trustee (" UST" ), Judy A. Robbins, of an Order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (" the Bankruptcy Court" ), Doc. 1. The only issue on appeal is whether the Bankruptcy Court erred in sealing a report (" the Report" ) filed by Appellant John W. Tripp, Esq.'s (" Tripp" ) counsel. For the reasons state herein, the Court AFFIRMS the ruling of the Bankruptcy Court.
The following facts are recounted from the Bankruptcy Court's June 24, 2013 Order. Doc. 1-10. On June 27, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court directed Appellee's counsel Paul K. Campsen to file the Report at issue in this appeal. Id. at 1. The
Report was to detail problems with the Appelle's practice before the Bankruptcy Court and to recommend solutions to these problems. Id. The Bankruptcy Court instructed " that the Report be written candidly and not as an advocate for any party to this matter." Id. Mr. Tripp filed a motion requesting the Report to be filed under seal on July 18, 2012. Id. at 2. The UST objected on July 20, 2012. Id. A hearing was held on July 25, 2012, and the Bankruptcy Court granted Mr. Tripp's motion until February 6, 2013. Id. On February 6, 2013, the Bankruptcy Court extended the seal until June 12, 2013, over the objection of the UST. Id. At the June 12, 2013 hearing, the Bankruptcy Court entered a permanent order sealing the Report, again over the objection of the UST. Id.
In granting the order, the Bankruptcy Court stated at the June 12 hearing:
These papers are to be open and readily accessible to the public. At the same time, when I told you to file a report I said I expect you to be brutally candid in that report, and I do not think it is appropriate to hold you to the -- not the legal standard but to the brutally candid standard where you said or may have said things in that report in a way that you wouldn't necessarily have said in a report that was for publication as Mr. Tripp's lawyer.
And I think that the more balanced and reasonable approach in this instance on these facts given my instructions to you and your compliance with those instructions would be to have this report remain under seal...
I don't think anything is going to be served by unsealing this document after nine months, ten months, eleven months now, and I certainly don't think anything's going to be served by unsealing this document after this period of time since the report addresses problems that by everyone's accounting no longer exist.
Hrg. Trscpt. at 23-24, In re Mack, No. 09-71540-SCS (Bankr. E.D. Va.), Doc. 173.
Appellant filed its Notice of Appeal on August 9, 2013. Doc. 1. Appellant's Brief was filed on September 3, 2013. Doc. 3. Appelle's Brief was filed on September 17, 2013. Doc. 4. Appellant's Reply Brief was filed on September 30, 2013. Doc. 5. A letter notifying the ...