United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' REQUEST TO SEAL (DOC.
21, 2019, defendants Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. and Erik
Mendoza filed motions for summary judgment in this action.
(Doc. Nos. 100, 102.) In connection with those motions, those
same defendants filed notice of a request to file documents
under seal pursuant to Local Rule 141. (Doc. No. 101.) Having
reviewed the materials that defendants seek to have sealed,
the court will grant defendants' request.
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.”).“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)).
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
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180 (citations omitted). The
reason for the two different 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, 605 F.3d
at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).
the “compelling reasons” standard applicable to
dispositive motions such as defendant's motion to
[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 and
citations omitted). 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
the terms “dispositive” and
“non-dispositive” motions are often used in this
context, the Ninth Circuit has clarified that the
“compelling reasons” standard applies whenever
the motion at issue “is more than tangentially related
to the merits of a case.” Ctr. for Auto Safety v.
Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1101 (9th Cir. 2016).
In some instances, the proposed filing of documents under
seal in connection with motions for preliminary injunction,
for sanctions, or in limine-though such motions are not
dispositive-may be governed by the “compelling
reasons” test, predicated on the right of access and
the need to “provide the public with a more complete
understanding of the judicial system and a better perception
of its fairness.” Id. at 1097-1101 (quoting
Leucadia, Inc. v. Applied Extrusion Techs., Inc.,
998 F.2d 157, 161 (3d Cir. 1993)). In keeping with this
principle, requests to seal documents relating to motions for
a preliminary injunction have been found by the Ninth Circuit
to “more than tangentially relate to the
merits” because success on the motion for a preliminary
injunction would have resolved a portion of the claims in the
underlying complaint. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d
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
defendants request sealing in connection with a motion for
summary judgment, the “compelling reasons”
standard plainly applies. However, even under that higher
standard, the court finds that the documents in question
should remain sealed. There appears to be little value to the
public in releasing these materials which consist largely of
text messages among various parties to this action, many of
which are of a private and personal nature. These
conversations frequently include discussions of intimate
activities, in some cases accompanied by photographs. This
material therefore appeals largely to the prurient interest
and, as such, the court finds they should not appear on the
public docket. See Valley Broadcasting Co. v. U.S. Dist.
Court,798 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1986) (Factors that
may overcome the presumptive right to access “would be
the likelihood of an improper use, ‘including
publication of scandalous, libelous, pornographic, or ...