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Millennium Laboratories, Inc. v. Allied World Assurance Co., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 12, 2014

MILLENNIUM LABORATORIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ALLIED WORLD ASSURANCE COMPANY (U.S.), INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PARTIES' UNOPPOSED EX PARTE APPLICATIONS TO FILE DOCUMENTS UNDER SEAL [ECF Nos. 167, 170, 173]

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are three unopposed ex parte applications to file various documents under seal. On June 3, 2014, the Court granted requests to file documents under seal based on the same grounds presented in the instant requests.

For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the parties' unopposed ex parte applications to file documents under seal. (ECF Nos. 167, 170, 173.)

I. ANALYSIS

Two standards generally govern motions to seal documents. Pintos v. P. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 677 (9th Cir. 2010). The standard varies depending on whether the documents are general judicial records or "private materials unearthed during discovery." Id. at 678-79.

"[A] compelling reasons' standard applies to most judicial records." Pintos, 605 F.3d at 677-78. A party seeking to seal judicial records must show that "compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings... outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure." Id. at 678 (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks omitted). This standard derives from the common-law right "to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents." Id.; see also Nixon v. Warner Comm'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). As long as the particular document is not one that is "traditionally kept secret, " the presumption of access "extends to pretrial documents filed in civil cases, including materials submitted in connection with motions for summary judgment." Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1134 (9th Cir. 2003). However, this right to access is not absolute. "[C]ompelling reasons' sufficient to outweigh the public's interest in disclosure and justify sealing court records exist when such court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes, ' such as the use of records to gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets." Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79 (citing Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598). But "[t]he mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records." Id. (citing Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1136).

A less burdensome "good cause" standard applies when a party seeks to seal "private materials unearthed during discovery, " which are not part of the judicial record. Pintos, 605 F.3d at 678. The court applies the lower burden to such documents because "[t]he cognizable public interest in judicial records that underlies the compelling reasons' standard does not exist for documents produced between private litigants." Id. (citing Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180). Under such circumstances, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) governs. Rule 26(c) provides that a trial court may grant a protective order "to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." The relevant standard for the purposes of Rule 26(c) is whether "good cause' exists to protect th[e] information from being disclosed to the public by balancing the needs for discovery against the need for confidentiality." Pintos, 605 F.3d at 678 (citing Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1213 (9th Cir. 2002). Furthermore, documents attached to non-dispositive motions must also meet the less burdensome standard under Rule 26(c). Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135 (discussing Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1213); see also Pintos, 565 F.3d at 678-79; Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180.

Here, the parties indicate that Plaintiff is currently under investigation by the United States Department of Justice regarding matters related to this case. And on June 3, 2014, the Court granted similar requests to permit the parties to file documents under seal. For those same reasons, the Court finds that good cause exists to permit the parties to file their respective filings under seal. See Pintos, 605 F.3d at 678.

II. CONCLUSION & ORDER

In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS the parties' unopposed ex parte applications, and ORDERS the Clerk of the Court to accept and FILE UNDER SEAL the requested documents.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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