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SES vs Intelsat: Trustee objects to ‘sealed’ hearings

August 19, 2021

August 19th is a busy day for Judge Keith Phillips in his bankruptcy court. A morning session has listed eight motions related to the sealing of sessions (that is holding hearings in complete privacy). Other elements to be decided include SES’s application for Summary Judgement in its $1.8 billion claim against Intelsat.

However, the United States Trustee is firmly objecting for any of the motions being heard in private.

On August 17th,  the Trustee reminded the court that the Summary Judgement argument has been scheduled since at least June 16th. But “on August 11, 2021, eight days before the hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment, the Debtor and SES filed the Motion to Seal Hearing,” stated the Trustee. The Trustee says he has no objections to confidential elements from the two parties to include redacted portions.

However, the Trustee says: “The Motion to Seal Hearing seeks to take the matter further. Despite the fact that this hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment has been scheduled for months, the Debtors and SES now seek – on an expedited basis providing a mere eight-days’ notice – to close the courthouse doors and bar interested parties and members of the public from even attending the hearing”.

The application before Judge Phillips asks that the hearings only be open to “professionals”, i.e., lawyers for the parties.

This should not be granted, argues the Trustee, who says that the US Bankruptcy Code and Rules says that papers filed in cases are public records and open to examination without charge. Moreover, “All trials and hearings shall be conducted in open court,” says the Trustee.

“The Debtors and SES ignore the most relevant authority on the issue of closing hearings. Even applying the correct authority, there is no basis for sealing the hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment. The Motion to Seal Hearing should be denied,” argues the Trustee, and adding that open courts are a fundamental principal of the American judicial system.

In its Motion to the court, the Trustee adds that the SES vs Intelsat dispute does not involve matters of national security. Indeed, if there are commercially-confidential elements to be revealed, the Trustee says the solution is simple and entirely within their own control: “their counsel should not mention such information at the hearing”.

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