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Platypus Wear, Inc. v. United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co.

October 15, 2010

PLATYPUS WEAR, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES FIDELITY AND GUARANTY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William V. Gallo U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SEAL OR, ALTERNATIVELY, REDACT SETTLEMENT ) CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

(Doc. No. 21)

Defendant United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company (hereafter "Defendant"), has filed a Motion to Seal Or Alternatively, Redact Settlement Conference Transcript (hereafter "Motion"). Plaintiff Platypus Wear, Inc. (hereafter "Plaintiff"), has filed a Statement of Non-Opposition to Defendant's Motion. The Court, having reviewed Defendant's Motion and the transcript at issue, and GOOD CAUSE APPEARING, HEREBY DENIES Defendant's Motion.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY PERTAINING TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION

On July 15, 2010, the Court conducted a Settlement Conference in this matter.*fn1 At the Settlement Conference, the case settled. The terms of the settlement were placed on the record in open court.

On July 27, 2010, the official transcript of the terms of the settlement was filed with the Court.

On August 6, 2010, Plaintiff and Defendant filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss the Entire Action without prejudice. On August 10, 2010, the District Judge assigned to this case granted the Joint Motion to Dismiss. The Order Granting the Joint Motion to Dismiss did not reserve the Court's jurisdiction over the case.

On August 17, 2010, Defendant filed the Motion now before the Court. On August 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Non-Opposition to the Motion.

On September 15, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion to Amend the Dismissal in Order to Allow Ruling on Motion to Seal or Alternatively, Redact Settlement Conference Transcript. On October 8, 2010, the District Judge assigned to this case granted Defendant's Motion to Amend the Dismissal. The Court's October 8, 2010 Order states: "The Court retains jurisdiction and the case is reopened for the limited purpose of deciding Defendant's Motion to seal, or, in the alternative, redact settlement conference (transcript)."

Defendant seeks a Court order that the transcript recorded in open court containing the terms of the settlement be sealed or redacted in its entirety due to the confidential nature of the discussions at the settlement conference. To support this request, Defendant cites to the Notice of Early Neutral Evaluation Conference filed on January 28, 2010, that states "All (Early Neutral Evaluation) Conference discussions will be informal, off-the-record, privileged and confidential." Defendant also cites to the United States District Court, Southern District of California Local Rule*fn2 16.1.c.1.b., which states: "The (Early Neutral Evaluation) Conference will be informal, off-the-record, privileged and confidential." Further, Defendant cites to Local Rule 16.3.h., which states: "The Settlement Conference will be off-the-record, privileged and confidential, unless otherwise ordered by the Court."

II. ANALYSIS

The United States Supreme Court has acknowledged a common law right of access to court records in a civil proceeding. At the same time, the Supreme Court recognized that the right of access is not absolute. The Court stated that courts should consider "the interests advanced by the parties in light of the public interest and the duty of the courts. Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995)[citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597-598, 602 (1978)].

The Ninth Circuit has held that the approach for determining whether the common law right of access should be overridden requires the court to start with a strong presumption in favor of access. Hagestad, 49 F.3d at 1434 [citing Valley Broadcasting v. United States District Court, 798 F.2d 1289 (9th Cir. 1986)]. ["The presumption of access may be overcome only 'on the basis of articulable facts known to the court, not on the basis of unsupported hypothesis or conjecture.'" Id. at 1293]. "The factors relevant to a determination of whether the strong presumption of access is overcome include the 'public interest in understanding the judicial process and whether disclosure of the material could result in improper use of the material for scandalous or libelous purposes or infringement upon trade secrets.'" Hagestad, 49 F.3d at 1434 [citing EEOC v. Erection Co., Inc., 900 F.2d 168, 170 (9th Cir. 1990)](emphasis added).

After the court takes the relevant factors into consideration, it must base its decision on a compelling reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling. Pintos v. Pacific Credit Assn., 605 F.3d 665, 667-668 (9th Cir. 2010)[citing Valley Broadcasting, 798 F.2d at 1295; Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. ...


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