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Traylor Bros., Inc v. San Diego Unified Port District

March 26, 2011

TRAYLOR BROS., INC.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAN DIEGO UNIFIED PORT DISTRICT,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: M. James LorenzUnited States District Court Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE DOCUMENTS UNDER SEAL [DOC. 110],

AND RELATED THIRD-PARTY

(2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE

APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO FILE EXCESS PAGES [DOC. 106], AND

(3) TERMINATING DEFENDANT'S EX ACTION. PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE HEARING DATE AS MOOT [DOC. 115]

Pending before the Court are three requests related to Plaintiff Traylor Bros. Inc.'s anticipated motion for partial summary judgment against Defendant / Third-Party Plaintiff San Diego Unified Port District ("Port"). These requests include (1) Traylor Bros.' motion to file documents under seal, (2) Traylor Bros.' ex parte application seeking leave to file excess pages for its anticipated motion, and (3) the Port's ex parte application to continue the hearing date reserved by Traylor Bros. for its anticipated motion. To date, Traylor Bros.' motion to file documents under seal remains unopposed. Both ex parte applications, however, are opposed.

For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Traylor Bros.' motion to file documents under seal, DENIES Traylor Bros.' ex parte application, and TERMINATES AS MOOT the Port's ex parte application.

ANALYSIS

This case arises from a public-works construction project performed by Traylor Bros. for the Port. The project involved the demolition and removal of existing piers and launchway structures and other debris, and the dredging and disposal of contaminated bay sediment in preparation for the installation of an engineered cap system. According to Traylor Bros., the anticipated motion for partial summary judgment seeks to establish (1) that its interpretation of the contract documents relating to the Dredging & Capping Claim is reasonable such that, as a matter of law, the contract documents are at best ambiguous and must be construed against the Port, and (2) the Port's liability for the extra time incurred and extra work performed by Traylor

A. Traylor Bros.' Motion to File Documents Under Seal

"[A] 'compelling reasons' standard applies to most judicial records." Pintos, 605 F.3d at 677-78. A party seeking to seal judicial records must show that "compelling reasons supported specific factual findings . . . outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure." Id. at 678 (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks omitted). This standard derives from the common-law right "to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents." Id.; see also Nixon v. Warner Comm'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). As long as the particular document is not one that is "traditionally kept secret," the presumption of access "extends to pretrial documents filed in civil cases, including materials submitted in connection with motions for summary judgment." Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1134 (9th Cir. 2003). However, this right to access is not absolute. "'[C]ompelling 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." Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79 (citing Nixon, 435 U.S. at 678). But "[t]he 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. (citing Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1136).

Traylor Bros. seeks to file under seal the conformed estimate of Dutra Dredging Company ("Dutra"), the only other contractor to submit a bid for the subject project, in support of its anticipated motion for partial summary judgment. It indicates that the parties obtained Dutra's conformed estimate during discovery process. (Pl.'s Mot. to Seal 1:27--29.) Traylor Bros. also contends that the conformed estimate "contains the [Dutra's] trade secrets, proprietary information, and private financial information, which, if made available to the public, would irreparably impact Dutra's future ability to successfully bid public works projects." (Id. at 1:28--2:2, 4:1--8.) It supports itsmotion with the declaration of its counsel, Catherine A. Hanna.

Traylor Bros. argues that these circumstances satisfy the Ninth Circuit's compelling-reasons standard. (Pl.'s Mot. to Seal 3:19--4:12.) The Court agrees.*fn1 Exposing Dutra's conformed estimate to the public has the potential to greatly disadvantage it in the future commercial ventures. Furthermore, Civil Local Rule 7.1(f.3.c) expressly provides that "[i]f an opposing party fails to file papers in the manner required by Local Rule 7.1.e.2, that failure may constitute a consent to the granting of that ...


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