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Oracle America, Inc v. Innovative Technology Distributors

May 8, 2012


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


On February 24, 2012, Oracle filed a motion for leave to file under seal certain portions of Oracle's Amended Complaint ("FAC"). See ECF No. 122. In support of its motion to seal, Oracle 19 filed the Declaration of Margaret Branick-Abilla. ECF No. 123. On March 2, 2012, Defendant 20 filed a response, ECF No. 124, along with the Declaration of Vincent James Spinella, ECF No. 21 124-1, in support of Plaintiff's second motion to seal in accordance with Civil Local Rule 79-5(d).

Under the Civil Local Rules, to be sealable, a document must be "privileged or protectable 23 as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to protection under the law." Civ. L.R. 79-5. There is 24 generally a strong presumption in favor of public access to court records. Foltz v. State Farm Mut. 25 Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003). That presumption may be overcome, and 26 court records may be sealed, only upon a showing of "compelling reasons."*fn1 Kamakana v. City and Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006). That is, the party seeking to seal a 2 judicial record "must 'articulate[] compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings,'" and 3 the Court must "'conscientiously balance[] the competing interests' of the public and the party who 4 seeks to keep certain judicial records secret." Id. at 1178-79 (quoting Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135).

The Ninth Circuit has explained that "compelling reasons" that justify sealing court records 6 generally exist "when such 'court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes,' such 7 as the use of records to gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, 8 or release trade secret." Id. at 1179 (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598). Although a "good cause" 9 showing will suffice to seal documents produced in discovery attached to non-dispositive motions, "[a] 'good cause' showing will not, without more, satisfy a 'compelling reasons' test." Id. at 1180.

"Unlike private materials unearthed during discovery, judicial records are public documents almost by definition, and the public is entitled to access by default. This fact sharply tips the balance in 13 favor of production when a document, formerly sealed for good cause under Rule 26(c), becomes 14 part of a judicial record." Id.

Oracle moves to file its FAC under seal on grounds that certain financial and other 16 information contained within them has been designated as "Confidential" or "Attorneys' Eyes Only" by ITD under the Protective Order. See ECF No. 122. Defendant ITD has submitted a 18 declaration supporting Plaintiff's request to seal, in compliance with Civil Local Rule 79-5(d). See 19 Decl. of Vincent James Spinella, ECF No. 124-1 ("Spinella Decl."). In the declaration, ITD 20 explains that portions of paragraphs 28, 30, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, 48, 51, and 57 of the FAC contain "highly sensitive information" concerning either: (1) the personal finances of James and Linda 22 Spinella; (2) ITD's and HDlogix's ownership structure, internal operations and business strategies, 23 revenue numbers, financial accounting methodologies, and customer relationships; or (3) the amount of ITD's debt and its lender relationships. See Spinella Decl. ¶¶ 3-12. ITD does not object 2 to the remaining portions of Oracle's FAC being publicly available. See ECF No. 124 at 3. 3

Upon review of the passages of the FAC that ITD has designated confidential and wishes 4 to file under seal, the Court is not persuaded that they contain any sealable information. For 5 example, while paragraphs 28 and 30 refer to the Spinellas' finances and ownership stakes, they do 6 not disclose any specific, detailed information warranting protection from public view. Similarly, 7 while paragraph 37 describes evidence of ITD's and HDlogix's revenues, it does not disclose 8 specific financial information. While ITD may not want all of this information disclosed, "[t]he 9 mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or 10 exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records."

Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179(citing Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1136). The allegations contained in Oracle's FAC are not unrelated or merely tangential to the underlying cause of action, but rather 13 form the very foundation of Oracle's new fraudulent conveyance claims against ITD. The public 14 therefore has a strong interest in accessing the allegations in the FAC, and ITD has not shown 15 compelling reasons why its private interest outweighs the public's strong interest in accessing 16 public records. The motion for leave to file portions of the FAC under seal is therefore DENIED. 17

Absent a stipulation of the parties to amend the FAC to exclude the portions ITD wishes to remain 18 confidential, Oracle shall file a non-redacted version of the FAC within 7 days of the date of this 19 Order. 20

IT IS SO ...

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