United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART JOINT
ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION TO SEAL Re: Dkt. No. 122
H. KOH, United States District Judge
the Court is the parties' “Joint Administrative
Motion to File Under Seal Documents Relating to
Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification and
Defendants' Opposition Thereto.” ECF No. 122.
courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and
copy public records and documents, including judicial records
and documents.'” Kamakana v. City & Cnty.
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)). Thus, when considering a
sealing request, “a strong presumption in favor of
access is the starting point.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
seeking to seal judicial records relating to motions that are
“more than tangentially related to the underlying cause
of action, ” Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler
Grp., 809 F.3d 1092, 1099 (9th Cir. 2016), bear the
burden of overcoming the presumption with “compelling
reasons supported by specific factual findings” that
outweigh the general history of access and the public
policies favoring disclosure. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at
1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006). Compelling reasons justifying the
sealing of court records generally 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
(quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598). However,
“[t]he 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.
attached to motions that are “not related, or only
tangentially related, to the merits of a case, ” are
not subject to the strong presumption of access. Ctr. for
Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1099; see also
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (“[T]he public has less
of a need for access to court records attached only to
non-dispositive motions because those documents are often
unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying
cause of action.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Parties moving to seal records attached to motions unrelated
or only tangentially related to the merits of a case must
meet the lower “good cause” standard of Rule
26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Ctr. for
Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1098-99; Kamakana, 447
F.3d at 1179-80. The “good cause” standard
requires a “particularized showing” that
“specific prejudice or harm will result” if the
information is disclosed. Phillips v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 2002);
see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). “Broad allegations
of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated
reasoning” will not suffice. Beckman Indus., Inc.
v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir.
to Rule 26(c), a trial court has broad discretion to permit
sealing of court documents for, inter alia, the protection of
“a trade secret or other confidential research,
development, or commercial information.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(c)(1)(G). The Ninth Circuit has adopted the definition of
“trade secrets” set forth in the Restatement of
Torts, holding that “[a] trade secret may consist of
any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information
which is used in one's business, and which gives him an
opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do
not know or use it.” Clark v. Bunker, 453 F.2d
1006, 1009 (9th Cir. 1972) (quoting Restatement (First) of
Torts § 757 cmt. b). “Generally [a trade secret]
relates to the production of goods. . . . It may, however,
relate to the sale of goods or to other operations in the
business. . . .” Id. (ellipses in original).
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that
sealing may be justified to prevent judicial documents from
being used “as sources of business information that
might harm a litigant's competitive standing.”
Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598.
addition, parties moving to seal documents must comply with
the procedures established by Civil Local Rule 79-5. Pursuant
to that rule, a sealing order is appropriate only upon a
request that establishes the document is “sealable,
” or “privileged, protectable as a trade secret
or otherwise entitled to protection under the law.”
Civ. L. R. 79-5(b). “The request must be narrowly
tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material, and must
conform with Civil L.R. 79-5(d).” Id. Civil
Local Rule 79-5(d), moreover, requires the submitting party
to attach a “proposed order that is narrowly tailored
to seal only the sealable material” and that
“lists in table format each document or portion thereof
that is sought to be sealed, ” as well as an
“unredacted version of the document” that
“indicate[s], by highlighting or other clear method,
the portions of the document that have been omitted from the
redacted version.” Id. R. 79-5(d)(1).
the Ninth Circuit's decision in Center for Auto
Safety v. Chrysler Group, 809 F.3d 1092, 1099 (9th Cir.
2016), most district courts to consider the question have
found that a motion for class certification is “more
than tangentially related to the underlying cause of
action” and therefore merits application of the
“compelling reasons” standard. See Philips v.
Ford, 2016 WL 7374214 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2016)
(collecting cases); see also Cohen v. Trump, 2016 WL
3036302 (S.D. Cal. May 27, 2016) (discussing other cases
applying compelling reason standard to class certification
motion after Center for Auto Safety and applying
compelling reason standard). Indeed, in denying the
parties' earlier motions to seal without prejudice, the
Court previously found that the compelling reasons standard
applies to the instant motion for class certification. ECF
No. 120. The Court accordingly applies the “compelling
reasons” standard to the parties' request. Ctr.
for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1099.
support of the motions to seal, the parties have filed the
(1) Declaration of Joseph E. Laska, see ECF No.
(2) Declaration of Jennifer S. Romano, see ECF No.
(3) Declaration of Kyle J. McGee, see ECF No. 122-3
motions to seal and the supporting declarations, the parties
state that one of the documents which the parties seek to
seal contains “terms of the highly confidential
contracts and the contractual business relationship between
Blue Shield and” Human Affairs International of
California, Inc. (“HAI-CA”) ECF No. 122, at 3.
Other documents contain “highly sensitive proprietary
business information, including data regarding requests for
authorization, payment of claims, and appeals relating to
Blue Shield members' requests for services.”
Id. at 3-4. Finally, some documents contain personal
addresses, names, birth dates, and private health information
of the named Plaintiffs' children. Id. at 4. The
Court addresses each in turn below.
the parties seek to seal Exhibit H to the Declaration of
Daniel L. Berger in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for
Class Certification in its entirety. See ECF No.
122, at 1. Exhibit H is a 96-page contract between Blue
Shield and HAI-CA. ECF No. 122-13. The parties' request
to seal Exhibit H in its entirety is not narrowly tailored to
preventing disclosure of trade secrets or other sealable
material within Exhibit H. For example, Exhibit H contains a
Recitals section and a Definitions section that include
presumably public background information regarding HAI-CA and
Blue Shield. See ...