Sidebar: CSC Tried, Failed to Seal Court Records on Appeal

Computer Sciences Corp. tried to keep secret the court records about its dispute with Sears over the termination of their outsourcing contract. But late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago denied CSC's motion to seal the records.

In his order, Circuit Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote that the IT services firm didn't "even try to justify the relief it seeks - sealing the entire record." The order stated that motions such as the one filed by CSC "must identify particular documents that are trade secrets or otherwise justify secrecy."

CSC had argued in documents filed with the appeals court on April 25 that it would suffer "irreparable harm" if it became publicly known that Sears had declared CSC to be in material breach of its contract obligations and if the retailer attempted to terminate the outsourcing contract for cause.

"This information, if it were to become public, would be devastating to CSC and extremely valuable to its competitors," the company claimed in its motion. "Knowledge of Sears' allegations of material breach and its plan to terminate CSC for cause could result in other customers not hiring CSC."

According to CSC, a U.S. District Court judge had sealed the records of the case at the company's request. The vendor claimed that only top executives and select employees at CSC and Sears, plus the companies' lawyers, knew about the case at the time the appeal was filed.

Sears opposed CSC's motion to seal the records. In documents filed with the appeals court, Sears noted that CSC represented to the district court that it had never been terminated for cause in an IT contract.

Sears went on to say that General Motors Corp.'s OnStar Corp. division ended a contract with CSC for a material breach after the vendor sued OnStar in 2002.

Sears said that the OnStar case records weren't under seal and that when it pointed out the OnStar litigation to CSC, the services firm changed its position to say it had "never been terminated for cause in an IT outsourcing contract."

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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