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Kiel J. Sturm v. the World


May 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lucy H. Koh United States District Judge


On March 4, 2010, the Court issued an order dismissing this case with prejudice. Plaintiff now moves to seal the case file and for leave to amend his Complaint to continue this case as an 18 action to litigate a Freedom of Information Act request sent to NASA. For the reasons discussed 19 below, the Court denies both motions.

I.Motion for Leave to Amend

On January 14, 2011, Plaintiff Kiel Sturm filed a Complaint for Alien Tort against the World, the State of California, and 7 billion Doe Defendants. See Compl. On January 21, 2011, 23 the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to the screening provisions of the in forma 24 pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and granted Plaintiff 30 days in which to file an amended 25 complaint. See Order Denying Ex Parte Application for Temporary Protective Order; Granting 26

Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis; and Dismissing Complaint with Leave to Amend, ECF No. 10. After Plaintiff failed to file an amended complaint within 30 days, the Court dismissed the action with prejudice. See Order Dismissing Case, ECF No. 17. As a result, this 2 case has been closed since March 4, 2011.

case to "use the case title, case number, IFP standing and free PACER access to continue as 5 enforcement of a Freedom of Information Act 5 USC § 552 request sent to NASA." Ex Parte Mot. 6 for a Protective Order Sealing the Case Files; For an Order Granting Leave to Amend ("Ex Parte 7

On April 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting leave to amend the Complaint in this

Mot.") at 1, ECF No. 19. Plaintiff asserts that the "non-entity THE WORLD makes an appropriate 8 co-defendant with this new purpose." Id. However, the Complaint in this action contains no 9 mention of a FOIA request and appears to be entirely unrelated to the FOIA action Plaintiff now 10 seeks to bring. Moreover, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, the only proper defendant in a FOIA

action is the federal agency that has improperly withheld agency records. See Laughlin v. C.I.R.,

117 F. Supp. 2d 997, 1000 (S.D. Cal. 2000) (concluding that the only proper defendants in FOIA 13 actions are federal departments and agencies). Finally, this case was dismissed with prejudice and 14 has been closed for nearly two months. Plaintiff has not presented any grounds justifying relief 15 from the Court's order of dismissal and reopening of this case. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b).

Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is DENIED.

requests that the Court seal the documents filed in this case. Plaintiff explains that he was having a "mental health moment" when he filed this case and states that some of the documents filed have 21 attracted unwanted attention. While the Court is sympathetic to Plaintiff's situation, the Court 22 finds that Plaintiff has not made the showing required to seal the public documents filed in this 23 action.

II.Motion to Seal

In his ex parte motion, and in a letter filed with the Court on April 18, 2011, Plaintiff also

There is a strong presumption in favor of public access to court records. Foltz v. State

Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003). Generally, that presumption may 26 be overcome, and court records may be sealed, only upon a showing of "compelling reasons 27 supported by specific factual findings that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure."*fn1 Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Under the compelling reasons standard, it 3 is not enough to show that the records "may lead to a litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or 4 exposure to further litigation." Id. at 1179. Rather, the party must articulate specific facts showing 5 something more than good cause for secrecy, such as a likelihood that the information will

589, 598 (1978)). In this case, although Plaintiff suggests that the court documents he filed may 8 lead to embarrassment or unwanted attention, he has not articulated specific facts showing that the 9 documents contain sensitive personal information or are likely to become a vehicle for libel or any 10 other improper purpose. See id. Rather, Plaintiff simply wishes to "cover up" his own errors in judgment in filing some of the documents in this case. Ex Parte Mot. at 1. Again, while the Court

is sympathetic to Plaintiff's situation, the desire to cover up such errors in judgment is not 13 sufficient to overcome the strong presumption of public access to court documents. Accordingly,

Plaintiff's motion to seal the case file is DENIED.

are DENIED. As this action has been dismissed with prejudice, Plaintiff is instructed not to file 18 any further motions or requests in this case.


"become a vehicle for improper purposes." Id. (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S.


For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motions for leave to amend and to seal the case file

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