United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO SEAL RE: DKT.
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge.
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to seal the
complaint. Dkt. No. 11 (“Mot.”). The motion
states that the “[t]he complaint contains confidential
information.” Id. at 1. Similarly,
Plaintiff's declaration in support of the motion asserts
that the complaint should “be placed under seal due to
the nature of sensitive and confidential information.”
Dkt. No. 12 (“Pl.'s Decl.”). Plaintiff's
declaration also contends that the exhibits to the complaint
contain confidential information. Id. The Court
DENIES the motion.
generally apply a “compelling reasons” standard
when considering motions to seal documents. Pintos v.
Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 677-78 (9th Cir.
2010). “This standard derives from the common law right
‘to inspect and copy public records and documents,
including judicial records and documents.'”
Id. (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of
Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006)).
“[A] strong presumption in favor of access is the
starting point.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To overcome
this strong presumption, the moving party must
“articulate compelling reasons supported by specific
factual findings that outweigh the general history of access
and the public policies favoring disclosure, such as the
public interest in understanding the judicial process.”
Id. at 1178-79 (citations, internal quotation marks,
and alterations omitted). “In general, compelling
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.” Id. at 1179
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The court
must “balance the competing interests of the public and
the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret.
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.”
Id. (citations, brackets, and internal quotation
Local Rule 79-5 supplements the “compelling
reasons” standard. The party seeking to file under seal
must “establish[ ] that the document, or portions
thereof, are privileged, 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 . . . .” Civ. L.R. 79-5(b).
records attached to motions that are only “tangentially
related to the merits of a case” are not subject to the
strong presumption of access. Ctr. for Auto Safety v.
Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1101 (9th Cir. 2016).
Accordingly, parties moving to seal such records must meet
the lower “good cause” standard of Rule 26(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. at 1097.
The “good cause” standard requires a
“particularized showing” that “specific
prejudice or harm will result” if the information is
disclosed. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen.
Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 2002)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c).
considering Plaintiff's motion to seal the complaint, the
Court applies the “compelling reasons” standard.
While the Ninth Circuit appears not to have explicitly
announced what standard applies to the sealing of a
complaint, many courts in this district have found that the
compelling reasons standard applies. See Towers v.
Iger, No. 15-cv-04609-BLF, 2016 WL 6427898, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. Oct. 31, 2016); Ojmar US, LLC v. Sec. People,
Inc., No. 16-cv-04948- HSG, 2016 WL 6091543, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. Oct. 19, 2016); Sjostrom v. Kraatz, No.
16-cv-01381-DMR, 2016 WL 3940886, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 21,
2016); In re Google Inc. Gmail Litig., No.
13-MD-02430-LHK, 2013 WL 5366963, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 25,
2013); Dunbar v. Google, Inc., No. 12-CV-003305-LHK,
2013 WL 4428853, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2013); In re
NVIDIA Corp. Derivative Litig, 06-cv-06110-SBA, 2008 WL
1859067, at *3-4 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 23, 2008). This makes sense
because the complaint is more than “tangentially
related to the merits of the case.” See Ctr. for
Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1101; see also
Sjostrom, 2016 WL 3940886, at *2 (“Because the
complaint is more than tangentially related to the merits of
the case, the compelling reasons standard governs the sealing
Plaintiff asserts, without any factual support, that the
complaint is confidential. See Mot.; Pl's Decl.
This clearly falls short of the Ninth Circuit's
requirement that the movant “articulate compelling
reasons supported specific factual findings.” See
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178 (internal quotation marks and
alterations omitted); see also Tdn Money Sys., Inc. v.
Glob. Cash Access, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-02197-JCM-NJK, 2016
WL 4708466, at *2 (D. Nev. Sept. 7, 2016) (“The burden
to show compelling reasons for sealing is not met by general
assertions that the information is ‘confidential . . .
.'”). In addition, Plaintiffs request to seal the
entire complaint is not “narrowly tailored” as
required by the Local Rules. See Civ. L.R. 79-5(b).
foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs motion to seal is DENIED.
Pursuant to Rule 79-5(f)(2), Plaintiffs complaint will not be
considered by the Court unless she files an unredacted
version within 7 days of this order. If Plaintiff prefers not
to file an unredacted version of the complaint, she may
instead file a renewed motion to seal. However, any renewed
motion to seal must be narrowly tailored and justified by