A federal judge in Philadelphia has denied a bid for an in camera review
and approval of proposed settlement agreements in a case brought against Bayview Asset Management over alleged Fair Labor Standards Act violations.
In a Feb. 25 memorandum, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who sits in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, laid out her reasons for denying a request by the eight plaintiffs and the defendant in the matter for an in camera review of settlements reached between the parties.
An in camera review is when a judge conducts a private review of a matter in judicial chambers as opposed to open court.
In this case, which involved allegations that Bayview intentionally mischaracterized the plaintiffs as “exempt” employees and misrepresented hours worked in an effort to avoid paying overtime wages, the court was made aware that the parties had reached amicable settlements in the matter late last year.
The parties subsequently petitioned the judge to undertake an in camera review of the confidential settlement agreements and enter a stipulation for dismissal with prejudice and for approval of settlement.
There was also a request for the judge to determine whether the proposed settlement agreements are a fair and reasonable resolution of the dispute.
In her memorandum, Brody wrote that she would only be addressing the first request at this stage of the game.
On that point, she decided against conducting an in camera review, writing that in their letter to the court, the parties failed to raise any justifications to override the public’s right of access other than the confidentiality term in their agreements.
“An ‘overwhelming majority of district courts’ have found that a joint stipulation to seal does not outweigh the strong presumption of public access to an FLSA settlement agreement,” Brody wrote. “Moreover, the only cases cited in the parties’ letter that address the right of access issue are orders denying motions to seal settlement agreements.
“Accordingly,” Brody continued, “I decline to perform an in camera review of the settlement agreements because the parties have not made a sufficient showing to override the public’s right of access to review judicial records.”
Brody stated that the parties could move forward with the settlement by filing on the public docket a motion for approval of their settlement agreements with their agreements attached.
The plaintiffs in the case are Disadra Adams, Maxwell Brown, Hurley Desper, Brandon Marshall, Latasha Morgan, Rodney Phillips and Peggy Belcher.