Court denies NFL team's request over Deepwater Horizon claim

By Kyla Asbury | Apr 8, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sought to have the courtroom sealed for a hearing involving damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which the court denied.

The team argued its appeal on April 1. It also sought to bar public access to recording the argument at appeal, which the appeals court publishes to its website regularly.

U.S. Circuit Judge Greg J. Costa said the public would have access to the courtroom that is paid for by the public, according to the March 29 opinion in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

"Until recently, this court filed Deepwater Horizon appeals under seal when they were first docketed," the order states. "Even under that sealing order, however, the court ultimately unsealed many cases and the vast majority of appeals were argued in a public courtroom."

The court found that most of the BP cases did not warrant "full sealing" and the default was public access. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to keep the record and briefs sealed due to revenue concerns with the NFL, but the request to seal the courtroom goes "too far," the order states.

"Public confidence in the courts is the issue: How can the public know that courts are deciding cases fairly and impartially if it doesn’t know what is being decided?" the order states. "Sealing a record undermines that interest, but shutting the courthouse door poses an even greater threat to public confidence in the justice system."

The order states that the team's request to seal the courtroom was only based on the team's desire to keep it a secret that it had filed a claim with the Deepwater Horizon litigation. 

"The court is unable to discern any reason for keeping secret the oil-spill claim of a football team when the claim of a hockey team (and of course those of numerous other businesses) is a public matter," the order states.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Case numbers: 18-30375

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