Imageware, Inc. v. U.S. West Communications

In Imageware, Inc. v. U.S. West Communications, 219 F.3d 793, 794 (8th Cir. 2000), a protective order stated that information designated as confidential may only be used in "preparing for and conducting... proceedings in this action and for no other purpose." The district court found Imageware in contempt because it submitted copies of documents containing confidential information to the Federal Communications Commission in another proceeding. Id. at 795-96. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit reversed the contempt finding because "a reasonable person could have read the order as a whole" not to prohibit Imageware's conduct. Id. at 797. In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on a provision not addressed in the parties' briefs which permitted confidential information to be "offered into evidence in open court unless the Designating Party obtains an appropriate protective order from the Court." Id. at 795, 797. The court concluded that, based on this provision, the alleged contemnors "could reasonably, even if perhaps erroneously, have believed that the documents in question were not subject to the protective order" because they were offered into evidence in open court without objection. Id. at 797.