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Rangel v. Ensign United States Drilling California Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 2, 2017

O'BRIAN RANGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ENSIGN UNITED STATES DRILLING CALIFORNIA INC. and ENSIGN UNITED STATES DRILLING INC., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING REQUEST TO SEAL DOCUMENTS, (DOC. NO. 70)

         On May 16, 2016, defendants Ensign United States Drilling (California) Inc. and Ensign United States Drilling Inc. filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 35.) A hearing on that motion is currently scheduled for July 6, 2017. (See Doc. No. 72.) On May 22, 2017, plaintiff O'Brian Rangel submitted a request to seal documents related to his opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment. Specifically, plaintiff requests that this court grant him leave to file the following documents under seal:

• Plaintiff s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment;
• Declaration of Christopher J. Kupka, and all exhibits thereto;
• Updated Joint Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment; and
• Plaintiff s Statement of Disputed Material Facts in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment.

(See Doc. No. 70.)

         For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs request for leave to file these documents under seal is denied without prejudice.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         There is strong presumption in favor of public access to court records. See Phillips v. Gen Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2002). However, “access to judicial records is not absolute.” Kamakana v. City & County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006).

         The Ninth Circuit has distinguished between the public's interest in accessing court records filed in connection with dispositive motions and non-dispositive motions. See In re Midland Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 686 F.3d 1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2012); Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1172; Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135-36 (9th Cir. 2003); Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1213. In general, two standards govern requests to seal documents.

[J]udicial records attached to dispositive motions [are treated] differently from records attached to non-dispositive motions. Those who seek to maintain the secrecy of documents attached to dispositive motions must meet the high threshold of showing that “compelling reasons” support secrecy. A “good cause” showing under Rule 26(c) will suffice to keep sealed records attached to non-dispositive motions.

Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180 (citations omitted).

         To demonstrate compelling reasons, as is required in connection with defendants' motion for summary judgment here, a party is “required to present articulable facts identifying the interests favoring continued secrecy, and to show that these specific interests [overcome] the presumption of access by outweighing the public interest in understanding the judicial process.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1181 (internal citations, quotation marks, and emphasis omitted). The party seeking to seal a particular record bears the burden of meeting this standard. Id. at 1178; Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135. “When sealing documents attached to a dispositive pleading, a district court must base its decision on a compelling reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or conjecture.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1182 (internal citation, quotation marks, and emphasis omitted); see also Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 679 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied sub nom. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc. v. Pintos, 562 U.S. 1134 (2011) (vacating and remanding district court's denial of a sealing request where the court applied merely the good cause standard in addressing documents filed in connection with summary judgment motions).

         “In general, ‘compelling reasons' sufficient to outweigh the public's interest in disclosure and justify sealing court records exist when such ‘court files might 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 1179 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 589 (1978)). “The ‘compelling reasons' ...


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