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Settlement Agreement Confidentiality Provisions Maintained, Not Exposed In Courtroom Dispute

Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. (SCAD), appealed a 1998 court order unsealing settlement documents between the SCAD and the School of Visual Arts (SVA). The agreement's provisions stipulated to strict confidentiality. The court reversed the disclosure of the agreement itself.

The parties settled a conspiracy suit in 1996. A court approved the agreement and ordered it's terms but did not seal them as a court record. Four days later the SVA's president made an announcement which led to two articles quoting "sources close to" the SVA in disclosing partial details. Through contractual arbitration both parties subpoenaed the two reporters from the Savannah Morning News. The SCAD motioned to compel them to reveal their sources regarding the articles and included a copy of the settlement agreement with the motion. The court filed the motion and sealed the documents pending a hearing. The newspaper moved to unseal the motion and agreement and the trial court ordered the disclosure. The SCAD directly appealed and the SVA supported reversing the order by way of amicus.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held that the agreement's privacy intent was not to be affected by the trial court filing because it was filed in an attempt to enforce the confidentiality agreement. It was further held that contrary to the trial court's contention the SCAD met it's burden in showing access to the agreement should be limited. See: Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. School of Visual Arts, Inc., 270 Ga. 791, 515 S.E.2d 370 (1999).

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Related legal case

Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. School of Visual Arts, Inc.