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Sealed Civil Documents

This section applies only to sealed documents; sealed cases must continue to be filed in paper format and accompanied by a PDF version on a CD, along with a cover letter.  See Electronic Filing in Civil Cases.

Sealed documents may be filed in unsealed cases. While docketing, you may be prompted to indicate whether the documents you attach should be sealed or unsealed.

However, unless there is already a Protective Order or an Order to Seal which allows this specific document to be sealed, you will also need to file a Motion to Seal this document.

Because your filing may include more than one document, one of the following situations will apply:

  • No document needs to be sealed.
  • All documents should be sealed.
  • Some documents should be sealed; some documents should be unsealed.

If no document needs to be sealed, click the Unsealed radio button, and then click Next.

Please note that any document which is initially filed as an unsealed document may be publicly available, even if it is sealed at a later time.

If one or more documents should be sealed, follow the instructions below.

Prepare Sealed Document(s)

In the caption, on the right side, either directly above or below the case number, one of the following should appear in all capital letters and in bold: “SEALED” or “FILED UNDER SEAL.” If the document is an exhibit which does not bear the case caption, one of these phrases should appear prominently on the upper right side of the document.

While it is acceptable to put red seals on documents, keep in mind seals can mean things other than the fact that a document is being filed under seal. Therefore, a seal in and of itself is not sufficient to flag a document as sealed.

If you would like to seal all the documents for this filing, follow the instructions below for All Documents Should be Sealed. Otherwise, if you would like some documents to be sealed and some to be unsealed, follow the instructions below for Main Document Should be Unsealed; One or More Attachments Should be Sealed.

All Documents Should be Sealed

Select the same event you would use if the document(s) did not need to be sealed. However, when prompted to indicate whether the document should be sealed or unsealed, click the Sealed radio button, then click Next. Unless there is already a Protective Order or an Order to Seal which allows this specific document to be sealed, you will be required to file a Motion to Seal this document. The Motion to Seal must be filed immediately after filing the sealed document.

The document(s) will be temporarily placed under seal until a ruling is made on the request to seal.

Example: You are filing a response in opposition to a motion. Select the event Response in Opposition to Motion. If you want to seal the response and attachments (if any), select Sealed when prompted. Whenever "Sealed" is selected, the screen below will then be displayed.

Main Document Should be Unsealed; One or More Attachments Should be Sealed

In this example, assume you are filing a reply to a response to a motion. You have decided the reply does not need to be sealed, but Exhibit A should be sealed. Your filing will occur in two parts.

Part A

  1. File the unsealed document (the main document) by selecting the same event you would use if none of the documents needed to be sealed.
  2. In place of the sealed document (i.e., Exhibit A), complete the Notice of Filing Exhibit or Attachment Under Seal as a placeholder for the sealed document(s). Attach it as an attachment to the main document.
  3. When prompted to indicate whether the document should be sealed or unsealed, click the Unsealed radio button, then click Next.

Example: Select the event Reply to Response to Motion. Attach the reply. Instead of attaching the sealed exhibit, complete and attach the Notice of Filing Exhibit or Attachment Under Seal. When prompted, click the Unsealed radio button.

Part B

  1. After filing the unsealed document(s) and the placeholder(s) as explained above, file the sealed document(s) by using the event Notice of Filing Exhibit or Attachment Under Seal. (Click Civil on the top menu bar, then click Notices, then select Notice of Filing Exhibit or Attachment Under Seal).
  2. Attach the sealed document(s). The document will be automatically sealed. Electronic access to sealed documents is limited to specific court users that have sealed access.
  3. Unless there is already a Protective Order or an Order to Seal which allows this specific document to be sealed, you must also file a Motion to Seal this specific document. The Motion to Seal must be filed immediately after filing the sealed document.

Example: Select the event Notice of Filing Exhibit or Attachment Under Seal. Attach Exhibit A (your sealed document). The document will be automatically sealed, so you will not be prompted to select Sealed or Unsealed.

Procedures Applicable to All Sealed Documents

At the same time of, or immediately after, filing the sealed document, you must serve a copy of the sealed document on any party required to be served by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Service may be made in paper format or in any other format/means agreed to by the parties. Your court filing must include a Certificate of Service reflecting service by other means if electronic service through CM/ECF is not used.  See Certificate of Service.

Any document filed under seal must be accompanied by a courtesy copy for chambers. See Courtesy Copies. Documents filed under seal will not be served through CM/ECF because parties do not have access to sealed documents.