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Lisa Davis v. Social Service Coordinators

May 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



On April 30, 2012, Plaintiff Lisa Davis ("Plaintiff") filed a "Notice of Request to Seal Documents." (Doc. 46.) Plaintiff wishes to seal documents or portions of documents that Plaintiff received from Defendants Social Service Coordinators, Inc. and Social Service Coordinators, LLC ("Defendants") during discovery. Plaintiff seeks to file these documents in support of her motion for conditional class certification, but pursuant to the parties' agreement regarding confidential discovery documents, requests that the documents be sealed. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's request to seal documents is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


A motion to seal documents implicates the "general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents." Nixon v. Warner Comm'cs, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978) (footnote omitted). In the Ninth Circuit, there is a strong presumption in favor of access to court records. See Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003) (stipulated order without more insufficient basis to seal court records). The right to access is not absolute and can be overridden where there are sufficiently compelling reasons. Id.

The party seeking to seal a document related to a non-dispositive motion must meet the "good cause" standard set forth by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) that applies to protective orders. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 678 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 2006) (noting differing treatment of judicial records attached to dispositive motions versus those attached to non-dispositive motions).*fn1 In the Rule 26(c) context, "[a] party asserting good cause bears the burden, for each particular document it seeks to protect, of showing that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted." Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1130. "Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy the Rule 26(c) test." Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks omitted). "If a court finds particularized harm will result from disclosure of information to the public, then it balances the public and private interests to decide whether a protective order is necessary." Phillips v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002).

Here, Plaintiff is seeking to seal information that was disclosed by Defendants during discovery and designated as "confidential" pursuant to a private agreement between the parties.*fn2

Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that certain documents filed in support of Plaintiff's motion to conditionally certify the class should be sealed: (1) portions of the Memorandum of Points and Authorities (Doc. 47-1); (2) Exhibits 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 attached to the Declaration of Alex Tomasevic (Doc. 47-3); and (3) Exhibits A through G attached to the Declaration of Lisa Davis (Doc. 47-4). Plaintiff's request to seal indicates that Defendants assert the information sought to be sealed contains "proprietary and private information and/or trade secrets." Plaintiff states that "there is a legitimate risk that Defendant[s] could be harmed by dissemination of the confidential documents and information contained therein."

On May 11, 2012, the Court issued an order indicating that Plaintiff's request to seal was not supported by a sufficiently specific statement of good cause. (Doc. 49.) As such, the Court allowed Defendants, whose documents are the subject of the sealing request, to submit an optional statement in support of Plaintiff's sealing request. (Doc. 49.) On May 15, 2012, Defendants submitted a statement in support of Plaintiff's sealing request, which was served on Plaintiff but was not filed on the docket, pursuant to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Local Rule 141.

In support of Plaintiff's request to seal, Defendants state that good cause exists to seal Exhibit 5 to the Declaration of Alex Tomasevic as well as Exhibits A, B, and C to the Declaration of Lisa Davis. Defendants do not assert, however, that all the documents Plaintiff identified for sealing should be sealed.

1. Exhibits to the Declaration of Alex Tomasevic

Plaintiff requests that Exhibits 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 to the Declaration of Alex Tomasevic be sealed. These documents were produced by Defendants during the course of discovery and were ostensibly marked as confidential pursuant to the parties' private agreement regarding confidential discovery materials. In support of Plaintiff's request, Defendants do not seek sealing as to all the Exhibits, but maintain that Exhibit 5 should be sealed because it is a proprietary and confidential document. Specifically, Defendants assert that Exhibit 5 is a highly detailed training manual that is a "roadmap for new hire orientation and training." As such, the document details company policies and procedures that have been developed by Defendants over many years. Defendants assert that the document represents a considerable investment in terms of time and money with respect to its development, refinement, and implementation. These training materials are entitled to confidential status and should not be disseminated publicly. Defendants assert that should a competitor obtain this information, it would disadvantage Defendants because competitors would have the benefit of the training guide without incurring the administrative and legal expense of developing their own training materials.

In Navarro v. Eskanos & Adler, No. C-06-02231 WHA (EDL), 2007 WL 902550, at *5-10 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2007), the district court considered whether good cause was established to maintain a confidentiality designation with respect to the defendant's training and procedure guide. With respect to pages of the training and procedure guide that provided training information in textual and schematic form, which had been developed by defendant over a number of years to efficiently run the business and provide the company with a competitive advantage in defendant's industry, the court determined there was good cause to maintain the confidentiality designation. Id. at * 6. Like Navarro, Exhibit 5 is an outline of the training procedures implemented by Defendant to train new employees that, should it be disseminated publicly, may allow Defendants' competitors to reap the benefit of the training format and information without having to incur the costs associated with developing the training manual. The Court finds that there is good cause to seal Exhibit 5 to the Declaration of Alex Tomasevic, which outweighs the public's presumptive right to access judicial documents. Plaintiff's request to seal Exhibit 5 is GRANTED.

As it relates to the remainder of the Exhibits that Plaintiff seeks to seal, Plaintiff has not offered any specific statement of good cause to seal these documents and Defendants do not claim these documents should be filed under seal. Therefore, Plaintiff's request to seal ...

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