Case No. 15-cv-02003-HSG
ORDER GRANTING ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION TO SEAL
Re: Dkt. No. 78
Pending before the Court is the parties' joint administrative motion to seal. Dkt. No. 78. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
Courts generally apply a "compelling reasons" standard when considering motions to seal documents. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 678 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006)). "This standard derives from the common law right 'to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'" Id. (quoting Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178). "[A] strong presumption in favor of access is the starting point." Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178 (quotation omitted). To overcome this strong presumption, the party seeking to seal a judicial record attached to a dispositive motion must "articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure, such as the public interest in understanding the judicial process" and "significant public events." Id. at 1178-79 (quotation omitted). "In general, 'compelling reasons' sufficient to outweigh the public's interest in disclosure and justify sealing court records exist when such 'court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes,' such as the use of records to gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets." Id. at 1179 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978)). "The mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records." Id.
The Court must "balance the competing interests of the public and the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret. After considering these interests, if the court decides to seal certain judicial records, it must base its decision on a compelling reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or conjecture." Id. Civil Local Rule 79-5 supplements the compelling reasons standard set forth in Kamakana: the party seeking to file a document or portions of it under seal must "establish that the document, or portions thereof, are privileged, protectable as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to protection under the law . . . The request must be narrowly tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material." Civil L.R. 79-5(b).
Records attached to nondispositive motions, however, are not subject to the strong presumption of access. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. Because such records "are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action," parties moving to seal must meet the lower "good cause" standard of Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. at 1179-80 (quotation omitted). This requires only a "particularized showing" that "specific prejudice or harm will result" if the information is disclosed. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 2002); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). "Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples of articulated reasoning" will not suffice. Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (quotation omitted).
The parties seek to seal portions of a background check report referencing Plaintiff's personal and financial information. The background check report is referenced in Defendant's opposition to Plaintiff's motion for class certification. Dkt. No. 76, Ex. F. The background check report is more than tangentially related to the underlying cause of action, and the Court therefore applies the "compelling reasons" standard. The parties have provided a compelling interest in sealing portions of the background check report because they contain Plaintiff's confidential financial information. See Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., No. 11-CV-01846-LHK, 2012 WL 6115623 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2012); see also Agency Solutions.Com, LLC v. TriZetto Group, Inc., 819 F. Supp. 2d 1001, 1017 (E.D. Cal. 2011); Linex Techs., Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., No. C 13-159 CW, 2014 WL 6901744 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 8, 2014) (holding sensitive financial information falls within the class of documents that may be filed under seal). The parties have identified portions of the report as containing confidential information; the Court finds sufficiently compelling reasons to grant the motion to file the report under seal. The Court therefore GRANTS the parties' administrative motion to seal. The background check report, Dkt. No. 78-4, shall remain sealed.
IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: 9/10/2018
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR.
United States District Judge