Hundreds of pages of court documents unsealed by U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell after he vacated a $37 million trade secrets verdict won by Lockheed Martin last year reveal that the company withheld internal corporate e-mails from the court that may have contradicted testimony of its witnesses. Pannell issued an order unsealing the documents on April 13 after an inquiry by the Fulton County Daily Report, which had sought access to a dozen court pleadings and more than 100 exhibits that Lockheed and Greenville, Texas-based defendant L-3 Communications Integrated Systems had filed under seal. In sealing the pleadings, the parties had cited a broad joint confidentiality order Pannell had signed at their request in 2006 and a separate confidentiality order in place in ongoing litigation between the parties in federal court in Texas.

The push to seal court pleadings under broad protective orders and, thus, evade public scrutiny is a growing phenomenon in Georgia’s Northern District that has resulted in lawyers designating pleadings as confidential when they file them with the court clerk without an individual review by the trial judge.

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