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Antonio C. Buckley v. Alameida

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


December 10, 2012

ANTONIO C. BUCKLEY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALAMEIDA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO REVIEW IN CAMERA AND FILE UNDER SEAL EXHIBIT C (Doc. 164)

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Antonio Cortez Buckley ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On September 29, 2003, Plaintiff filed the original complaint. Doc. 1. On May 10, 2012, Defendants filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment. Doc. 162. On May 11, 2012, Defendants filed a motion for the Court to review in camera, and file under seal for seventy-five years, Exhibit C attached to Defendants' statement of undisputed facts in support of Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Doc. 164. On August 3, 2012, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion to seal. Doc. 171.

II. Motion for In Camera Review and to Seal

A. Applicable Law

In camera review is permissible to determine whether confidential information from an unidentified prison informant is reliable. Zimmerlee v. Keeney, 831 F.2d 183, 186-87 (9th Cir. 1987); see also United States v. Anderson, 509 F.2d 724, 728 (9th Cir. 1974). Generally, the public 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 (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 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.

B. Analysis

Defendants attest that the confidential document provided information, deemed reliable by prison officials, contains information from a prison inmate whose safety would be placed in serious jeopardy if his identity were made known to the public and other inmates. Doc. 164 at 2. In light of defendant's attestation and given that in camera review is a permissible method of reviewing sensitive documents which could jeopardize the safety of another inmate, the Court will grant defendant's motion to seal Exhibit C. See Zimmerlee v. Keeney, 831 F.2d 183, 186-87. It is the practice of the Court to maintain case documents under seal for an undermined period of time, until they are ordered unsealed by the court. Accordingly, the Court shall partially grant Defendant's motion and direct the Clerk of the Court to Seal Exhibit C, until Exhibit C is ordered unsealed by the Court. See Hunt v. Fields, No. 2:09-cv-3525-KJM-GGH, 2012 WL 3070413 (E.D. Cal. 2012).

III. Conclusion and Order

For the reasons set forth herein, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Defendant's motion for the Court to review Exhibit C and file Exhibit C under seal is granted (Doc. 164); and

2. The Clerk of the Court is directed to seal Exhibit C submitted by Defendants until Exhibit C is ordered unsealed by the court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

20121210

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