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Glover v. Citibank, N.A.

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 5, 2017

MARISSA GLOVER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIBANK, N.A., Defendant.

          ORDER: (1) DENYING MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL; AND (2) DEFFERING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

          HON. ROGER T. BENITEZ JUDGE

         Before this Court is the Motion to Compel Arbitration filed by Defendant Citibank, N.A. (“Citibank”). (Docket No. 12.) The motion is fully briefed. Citibank has also filed an unopposed Motion to File Documents Under Seal. (Docket No. 16.) The Court finds the Motions suitable for determination on the papers without oral argument, pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1 .d. 1. For the reasons set for below, the Motion to Compel Arbitration is DEFERRED, and the Motion to File Documents Under Seal is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff Marissa Glover alleges that, “[i]n or about 2015, an imposter opened an account with Best Buy that was financed by CM" on her behalf without her knowledge or consent. (Id. at 36.) She first learned of this account in mid-2015 (the “7001 Account”). (Id. at ¶¶ 26, 36.) Plaintiff subsequently conducted an investigation and determined she was the victim of identity theft. (Id. at f 27.) She unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the 7001 Account informally with Citibank. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 35.) Even though she was attempting to resolve the issue, Citibank allegedly harassed Plaintiff with telephone collection efforts, demeaning collection letters, and inaccurate reporting to the credit bureaus. (Id. at ¶ 29.) As a result, Plaintiff claims she suffered various damages, including “attorneys' fees, loss of credit, loss of ability to purchase and benefit from credit, increased costs for credit, mental and emotional pain and anguish, and humiliation and embarrassment of credit denials.” (Id. at ¶ 30.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to File Documents Under Seal

         Citibank moves to file under seal the Declaration of Walter N. Golden (“Golden Declaration”) and its accompanying exhibits, which were filed with Citibank's Reply in support of its Motion to Compel Arbitration. (Docket No. 16.) Citibank explains that it seeks to seal the Golden Declaration and exhibits because they contain Plaintiffs personally identifiable information. Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2 normally requires that personally identifiable information be redacted, Citibank asserts that it was necessary to provide the document without redaction because the information supports the key issue in its Motion to Compel Arbitration. Plaintiff does not oppose the Motion to File Documents under Seal, but instead filed an objection to the Golden Declaration and exhibits on the grounds that they should not be considered having been brought to the Court's attention for the first time in Reply. (Docket No. 18.)

         In Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589 (1978), the Supreme Court recognized “a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Id. at 597. The main reason for this general right is to accommodate “the citizen's desire to keep a watchful eye on the workings of.. . government.” Id. at 598. However, the Supreme Court also stated that “the right to inspect and copy judicial records is not absolute.” Id. at 589. “Every court has supervisory power over its own records and files, and access has been denied where court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes, ” such as “to gratify private spite or promote public scandal, ” or to serve as a source of “business information that might harm a litigant's competitive standing.” Id. (internal citations omitted).

         Except for certain documents “traditionally kept secret, ” federal courts begin a sealing analysis with “a strong presumption in favor of access to court records.” Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003). A party seeking to seal a judicial record then bears the burden of overcoming this strong presumption by meeting the “compelling reasons” standard. Id. That is, the party must “articulate[ ] compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings, ” id, that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure, such as the “public interest in understanding the judicial process, ” Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995). “The 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.” Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 2006). “Simply mentioning a general category of privilege, without mrther elaboration or any specific linkage with the documents, [also] does not satisfy the burden.” Id. at 1184. A party's failure to meet the burden of articulating specific facts showing a “compelling reason” means that the “default posture of public access prevails.”Id., at 1182.

         The “compelling reasons” standard applies fully to dispositive motions, such as the one at issue here. Id. at 1179. In turn, the court must “conscientiously balance[ ] the competing interests” of the public and the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret. Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135. After considering these interests, if the court decides to seal certain judicial records, it 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 (citing Valley Broadcasting Co. v. U.S. Dist. Ct, 798 F.2d 1289, 1295 (9th Cir. 1986)).

         As explained above, Citibank is required to “present ‘articulable facts' identifying the interests favoring sealing, and to show that these specific interests overcame the presumption of access by outweighing the ‘public interest in understanding the judicial process.'" Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1181 (emphasis in original) (internal citations omitted). Citibank fails to make this showing. Citibank asserts that it filed documents containing personally identifiable information that is normally redacted because the information was necessary to support its Motion to Compel Arbitration. However, the only specific item noted in its Motion to File Documents Under Seal is Plaintiffs Driver's License. Citibank has not presented any supporting declarations, specific demonstrations of fact, or concrete examples of prejudice or harm that could result if these documents are filed in the public record. Nor has Citibank identified what information in these documents is considered privileged or sensitive. This is not the particularized showing necessary to establish a “compelling” interest. Additionally, some of the documents already contain redactions; therefore, it is unclear why the entire documents need to be sealed now. Therefore, Citibank's Motion to File Documents Under Seal is DENIED.

         II. Motion to Compel Arbitration

         Citibank moves to compel arbitration asserting Plaintiffs claims are subject to an existing arbitration agreement between them. (Docket No. 12.) Citibank's position is that Plaintiff did in fact open the 7001 Account, and is thereby subject to its ...


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