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Sergio Alejandro Gamez v. F. Gonzales et al

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA FRESNO DIVISION


May 26, 2011

SERGIO ALEJANDRO GAMEZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
F. GONZALES ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.

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

ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE DEFENDANTS' EX PARTE MOTION FOR ORDER TO FILE CONFIDENTIAL ) DOCUMENTS UNDER SEAL

CDCR #C-47759 ))

On May 23, 2011 Defendants in this civil rights action by a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed an Ex Parte Motion for Order to File Confidential Documents Under Seal, seeking to seal in excess of 200 pages of exhibits and Declaration of Josh Tyree in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and for Defendants' Motion for Order to File Confidential Documents Under Seal for in Camera Review as well as in excess of 200 pages of exhibits. One of the issues in this case is whether Defendants had sufficient reliable evidence to validate Plaintiff as associated with a gang and continue to keep him in segregation for more than six years. Defendants argue that their motion should be granted in order to protect the identity of confidential informants. While Defendants' premise is valid in that "[d]ue process does not require that an informant's identity be revealed to an inmate," Zimmerlee v. Keeney, 831 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987), and the information about the informants' identity could be used for the improper purpose or harming them, see Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 679 n.6 (9th Cir. 2010), Defendants have failed to make the appropriate showing why the entirety of Sergeant Tyree's declaration and all of over 200 pages of exhibits must be sealed.

A party requesting to seal judicial records attached to a dispositive motion "must show that 'compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings'" outweigh the presumption of access to judicial records, which favors disclosure. Pintos, 605 F.3d at 678, quoting Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006); see also Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179-80. "[B]road allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning" are insufficient. Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992).

Sergeant Tyree's declaration consists largely of materials which are already disclosed in the documents Defendants filed and did not request to seal. (Decl. of Josh Tyree in Support of Defs' Mot. for Summ. J. and for Defs' Mot. for Order to File Confidential Documents Under Seal for in Camera Review ("Tyree Seal Decl.") at 1-4.) The balance of the declaration seeks to provide, in very general terms, a factual basis for sealing the exhibits and does not reveal any information which could serve to identify confidential informants. (Id. at 4-6.) To the extent that Defendants requested to file under seal Sergeant Tyree's declaration their request is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to filing a new motion to seal, provided they show specific compelling reasons why each portion of the declaration should be sealed.

Defendants also requested to seal more than 200 pages of exhibits in support of their summary judgment motion. Upon review of the exhibits, it is apparent that the bulk of the material does not reference confidential informant names or other identifying information, such as descriptions, places or circumstances which could serve to identify them. Moreover, much of the contents are duplicative of the information provided in exhibits which Defendants have already filed and did not request to seal. Accordingly, Defendants' request for a wholesale sealing of the exhibits attached to Sergeant Tyree's Declaration is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to filing a new motion to seal, provided they show the requisite specific compelling reasons. If Defendants choose to file a new motion, they must carefully consider the exhibits and request to seal only those portions which contain confidential informant names and descriptions of events and information which could serve to identify them. In this regard, Defendants must show specific compelling reasons why each portion of the exhibit should be sealed. The court will not entertain a motion for wholesale sealing of voluminous documents without a specific showing supporting such a request.

No later than June 1, 2011 Defendants shall make arrangements to retrieve the documents they sought to file under seal.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20110526

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