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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Clear Channel Communications Inc. and Tanji Patton (collectively, Clear Channel) appeal the trial court’s protective order insofar as it directs the clerk “to maintain under seal all documents and transcripts of deposition testimony and answers to interrogatories, admissions and other pleadings filed under seal with the court in this litigation which have been designated, in whole or in part, as”Confidential Information’ by a party to this action.” HOLDING:Because the trial court’s protective order orders the clerk to maintain documents under seal without first complying with the procedures mandated by Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76a, it is reversed and this case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Pursuant to Rule 76a, “court records,” as that term is defined by the rule, “are presumed to be open to the general public and may be sealed only upon a showing of all of the following”: (a) a specific, serious and substantial interest which clearly outweighs: (1) this presumption of openness; (2) any probable adverse effect that sealing will have upon the general public health or safety; (b) no less restrictive means than sealing records will adequately and effectively protect the specific interest asserted. Clear Channel argues that: “An order directing that the clerk of the court maintain under seal certain pleadings and documents filed in a case necessarily involves court records. As such, the requirements of Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a are to be complied with. The”protective order’ entered by the trial court directed the clerk to seal court records, but it was not preceded by the motion, notice and hearing required by the Rule, nor did it make the findings or have the recitations required by the Rule. Such a total disregard of the requirements of the Rule constituted an abuse of discretion.” The court agrees. By directing the clerk to file under seal all pleadings and documents a party unilaterally designates as confidential, the trial court has ordered the sealing of court records; and it does so with disregard for the procedures mandated by Rule 76a. In its response, USAA appears to concede that it did not post the notice or file a verified copy of a posted notice with the supreme court, as required by Rule 76a(3), and that the protective order fails to state “the specific reasons for finding and concluding whether the showing required by paragraph 1, has been made” and “the specific portions of court records which are to be sealed,” as required by Rule 76a(6). The court holds the trial court’s protective order violates Rule 76a. OPINION:Duncan, J.; Stone, Duncan, Justice and Marion, JJ.

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