The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant Fields retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to file grievances and pursue civil rights litigation. Pending before the court is defendant's motion to review documents in camera and to file them under seal (Doc. No. 49). According to defendant, the documents are from the confidential section of defendant's central file, and submitted in support of defendant's motion for summary judgment. See Doc. No. 49 at 1.
Also pending before the court is plaintiff's motion to strike the documents, arguing that the evidence is irrelevant and prejudicial. See Doc. No. 52.
Plaintiff is also the plaintiff in another civil rights action filed in this court, Case No. 2:08-cv-0181 MCE CKD P. The 2008 action involves similar claims by plaintiff based on many of the same events covered by the instant case. On July 9, 2012, the magistrate judge in plaintiff's 2008 action decided a similar motion filed by defendants to review documents in camera and to file them under seal. See 2:08-cv-0181, Doc. No. 77. In the July 9, 2012 order, the magistrate judge granted defendant's motion to seal in part. While the magistrate judge ordered some of defendant's exhibits sealed, she also directed that a January 27, 2007 chrono marked "confidential" be filed and served on plaintiff. See id.. Defendant has filed the January 27, 2007 chrono in the 2008 action. See Doc. No. 80.
A review of the documents submitted in camera in the instant motion reflects that the defendant seeks to seal, among other things, the January 27, 2007 chrono now filed by defendants in the 2008 action.
Most courts recognize a presumption of public access to court records based on common law and First Amendment grounds. The public therefore normally has the right to inspect and to copy documents filed with the court. See, e.g., Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597-98, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 1312 (1978). However, public access may be denied where the court determined that court-filed documents may be used for improper purposes. See Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598; Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1433-34 (9th Cir. 1995). Courts should consider "the interests advanced by the parties in light of the public interest and the duty of the courts." Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d at 1434 (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 602). The Supreme Court has acknowledged that the decision to seal documents is "one best left to the sound discretion of the trial court, a discretion to be exercised in light of the relevant facts and circumstances of the particular case." Nixon, 435 U.S. at 599. After taking all relevant factors into consideration, the district court must base its decision on a compelling reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or conjecture. Hagestad, 49 F.3d at 1434. See also In re Midland etc. v. Annuity Sales etc., __F.3d__, 2012 WL 3024192 (9th Cir. 2012) (in dispositive matter filings, compelling reasons must exist to justify sealing).
Local Rule 141 allows the court to seal documents only upon a written order.
L.R. 141(a). Generally, the contents of such documents are of a nature that require the court to maintain the confidentiality of the document. For example, the contents may reveal information that may jeopardize the safety of a particular individual.
Defendant moves the court to review in camera and to file under seal "for seventy five years" documents marked as Exhibit B to Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, consisting of 16 consecutively-numbered pages. In conjunction with the instant motion, defendant has submitted hard copies of these documents for the court's in camera review. See Doc. No. 49.
Defendant describes the documents as documents from the confidential section of plaintiff's central file. See Doc. No. 49 at 2. Defendant further explains that [p]laintiff Hunt's claims against Defendant Fields in this action are based on the allegation that he was improperly labeled an associated or affiliate of the Bloods disruptive group, causing him to be placed on lockdown. Defendant Fields has moved for summary judgment on the ground that Defendant was only one source of Plaintiff's placement on lockdown. In considering the motion for summary judgment, Defendant requests that the Court review in camera all confidential documents from Hunt's central file....
All the confidential documents provided information, deemed reliable by prison officials, that Hunt was associating with known members of the Bloods disruptive group, and affiated [sic] with that group. And those documents contain information from prison inmates, whose safety would be placed in ...