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Gonzales v. City of San Jose

United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Division

November 19, 2014

MARY LOU GONZALES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SAN JOSE, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SEAL (Re: Docket No. 69)

PAUL S. GREWAL, United States Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is an administrative motion to seal an internal affairs investigation report. "Historically, courts have recognized a 'general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'"[1] Accordingly, when considering a sealing request, "a 'strong presumption in favor of access' is the starting point[2]." Parties seeking to seal judicial records relating to dispositive motions bear the burden of overcoming the presumption with "compelling reasons" that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure.[3]

However, "while protecting the public's interest in access to the courts, we must remain mindful of the parties' right to access those same courts upon terms which will not unduly harm their competitive interest."[4] Records attached to nondispositive motions therefore are not subject to the strong presumption of access.[5] Because the documents attached to nondispositive motions "are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action, " parties moving to seal must meet the lower "good cause" standard of Rule 26(c).[6] As with dispositive motions, the standard applicable to nondispositive motions requires a "particularized showing"[7] that "specific prejudice or harm will result" if the information is disclosed.[8] "Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples of articulated reasoning" will not suffice.[9] A protective order sealing the documents during discovery may reflect the court's previous determination that good cause exists to keep the documents sealed, [10] but a blanket protective order that allows the parties to designate confidential documents does not provide sufficient judicial scrutiny to determine whether each particular document should remain sealed.[11]

In addition to making particularized showings of good cause, parties moving to seal documents must comply with the procedures established by Civ. L.R. 79-5. Pursuant to Civ. L.R. 79-5(b), a sealing order is appropriate only upon a request that establishes the document is "sealable, " or "privileged or protectable as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to protection under the law." "The request must be narrowly tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material, and must conform with Civil L.R. 79-5(d)."[12] "Within 4 days of the filing of the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, the Designating Party must file a declaration as required by subsection 79-5(d)(l)(A) establishing that all of the designated material is sealable."[13]

With these standards in mind, the courts rules on the instant motion as follows:

Motion to Seal

Document to be Sealed

Result

Reason/Explanation

69

Exhibit 9

UNSEALED

No declaration in support filed with the court as required by Civ. L.R. 79-5(e)(1).

An assertion that the parties are required to seal documents pursuant to the protective order is insufficient to establish that documents are sealable per Civ. L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(A).

SO ORDERED.


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