Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Aldapa v. Fowler Packing Co. Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 12, 2017

BEATRIZ ALDAPA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FOWLER PACKING COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING REQUEST FOR SEALING

         On June 2, 2017, a request to seal documents was submitted by defendants in this matter, as discussed at the hearing on plaintiffs' class certification motion. This request to seal indicated defendants wished to seal three documents plaintiffs anticipated submitting in relation to their class certification motion-a ranch map index, a list of growers for Ag Force LLC, and a job identification list for Ag Force LLC.[1] No opposition was received from plaintiffs. For the reasons that follow, defendants' request for filing under seal is denied.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         All documents filed with the court are presumptively public. San Jose Mercury News, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 187 F.3d 1096, 1103 (9th Cir. 1999) (“It is well-established that the fruits of pretrial discovery are, in the absence of a court order to the contrary, presumptively public.”). Pursuant to Rule 5.2(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court “may order that a filing be made under seal without redaction.” However, even if a court orders such a filing, it may “later unseal the filing or order the person who made the filing to file a redacted version for the public record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 5.2(d). “Historically, courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 & n.7 (1978)).

         Two standards generally govern requests to seal documents. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 677 (9th Cir. 2010).

[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). The reason for the difference between the two standards is that “[n]ondispositive motions are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action, and, as a result, the public's interest in accessing dispositive materials does not apply with equal force to non-dispositive materials.” Pintos v. Pacific Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665 678 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted).

         Under the “compelling reasons” standard applicable to dispositive motions such as the one at issue here:

[T]he court must conscientiously 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. at 1178-79 (internal quotation marks, omissions, and citations omitted).[2] The party seeking to seal a judicial record bears the burden of meeting the “compelling reasons” standard. Id. at 1178; Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003).

         “In general, ‘compelling reasons' sufficient to . . . 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, 435 U.S. at 598). “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.” Id. “The ‘compelling reasons' standard is invoked even if the dispositive motion, or its attachments, were previously filed under seal or protective order.” Id. at 1178-79.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants have not presented compelling reasons warranting the filing of the documents in question here under seal. Typically, “compelling reasons” are found where the records in question might be used “to gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. Believing they needed to satisfy only a showing of “good cause, ” defendants have provided neither argument nor authority as to why their request demonstrates “compelling reasons” in support of sealing. Nevertheless, defendants do make two general arguments in favor of sealing: first, that the documents contain defendants' trade secrets, such as a “list of growers and location of such growers”; and second, that these documents “will subject Defendants' to unionization efforts.”

         The first of these arguments is simply too conclusory to be persuasive. While the court is certainly sympathetic that trade secrets may require protection, defendants here make only one vague proclamation that trade secrets will be impaired if these documents are not filed under seal. A generic assertion that the documents in question contain trade secrets that will allow competitors to “undermine . . . relationship[s]” and steal business from defendants is insufficient. The court cannot use guesswork to “conscientiously balance” the interests of the public with those of defendants here. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178-79

         Defendants' second argument is even less convincing. Fearing possible attempts to unionize workers is not at all analogous to the reasons the Ninth Circuit has found “compelling” to warrant sealing. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (holding sealing warranted where records could be used to “gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets”). Attempts to unionize are not inherently scurrilous, libelous, or inappropriate.[3]Defendants&#3 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.