Case Number: 07MD1
Court: Sixth Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee
Client: Courthouse News Service
Motion to Intervene and Unseal Filed: Dec. 3, 2020
Background: In 2007, shareholders of Dollar General sued the company over its plan to sell the business to a private equity firm. Among the individuals named in the lawsuit was Dollar General’s then-CEO and chairman, David Perdue, who is currently a sitting U.S. senator representing the state of Georgia.
While the parties reached a settlement in 2008, more than 90 filed court documents remain shielded from the public. Records were sealed by a stipulated protective order entered by the court in 2007 and include documents related to dispositive motions, such as depositions of Perdue.
Courthouse News Service filed a motion to intervene and unseal all of the documents currently hidden from the public as a result of the stipulated protective order. The motion was filed roughly a month before Perdue’s high-profile runoff election in January 2020, which could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. As Courthouse News Service explained in an article about its motion, Perdue’s campaign has made a big deal about his record as the CEO of Dollar General.
On behalf of CNS, Reporters Committee attorneys argue that members of the news media and the public have a presumptive right of access to the sealed court records under the First Amendment, Tennessee Constitution and the common law.
Quote: “The parties made no showing that the heavy presumption in favor of public access under both the constitutional and common law rights of access is overcome as to any of the sealed records at issue. There was no showing that there are compelling interests that would be served by sealing the court records, that the Court considered reasonable alternatives to sealing or that such sealing is narrowly tailored. And there was no showing that any interest the parties have in secrecy outweighs the public interest in access to these court records, which are from a class action and would shed light on the business activities of a sitting U.S. Senator.”
Update: At a Dec. 18, 2020, hearing, Judge Thomas Brothers ordered the defendants to release a redacted version of Perdue’s 2008 deposition. The defendants released the redacted deposition on Dec. 31, 2020. As Courthouse News reported, the deposition includes Perdue’s answers to questions concerning his involvement in Dollar General’s sale to a private equity firm in 2007. On July 23, 2021, Judge Brothers issued a final order unsealing more than 90 documents, along with related exhibits, in their entirety.
On Jan. 4, 2022, Courthouse News Service published an in-depth story based on the documents unsealed through the litigation. As reporter Daniel Jackson wrote in the piece, “The records detail some of Perdue’s last remaining months at Dollar General: his private equity meeting that allegedly occurred without full notice to the board to which he reported, his alleged disclosure of confidential information about board deliberations, and his final ouster from the deal as it reached its close.”