United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING REQUEST TO SEAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE (DOC.
12, 2019, defendants Alon Bakersfield Property, Inc. and
Paramount Petroleum Corporation (collectively
“Alon”) filed a motion to alter or amend the
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), a
motion for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59(a), and a motion
for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50. (Doc.
No. 250.) In connection with that motion, Alon filed a notice
of a request to seal pursuant to Local Rule 141. (Doc. No.
141.) As explained in that notice, Alon seeks to file a
settlement agreement entered into between plaintiffs and
Chevron, U.S.A. (the “Settlement Agreement”) as
an attachment to their motion, and plaintiffs have requested
that such filing be done under seal pursuant to the terms of
the parties' protective order. (Doc. No. 251-1 at 2.)
Having considered Alon's request to seal, as well as the
documents submitted in camera, Alon's request
will be denied without prejudice.
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 (quotations 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, omissions,
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
the request to seal is made in connection with a motion that
“is more than tangentially related to the merits of
[the] case, ” the court may grant the request only upon
a showing that compelling reasons exist to seal the materials
in question. See San Diego Comic Convention v. Dan Farr
Prods., No. 14-CV-1865 AJB (JMA), 2018 WL 2717880, at *1
(S.D. Cal. June 5, 2018) (finding that defendants had
presented compelling reasons to seal confidential settlement
discussions attached to a motion for a new trial);
Brocade Commc'ns Sys., Inc. v. A10 Networks,
Inc., No. C 10-3428 PSG, 2013 WL 211115, at *1 (N.D.
Cal. Jan. 17, 2013) (applying the compelling reasons standard
to a request to seal because defendant's request for
judgment as a matter of law “involve[s] dispositive
decisions by this court”). Alon itself “takes no
position” on the issue of whether the Settlement
Agreement must be filed under seal, . (Doc. No. 251 at 2.)
Instead, Alon indicates that it is plaintiffs who seek to
have the Settlement Agreement filed under seal.
(Id.) However, for their part, plaintiffs have not
submitted anything to the court with respect to why the
Settlement Agreement should be sealed, leaving the court with
no basis to find that sealing is warranted here.
it is apparently plaintiffs' position that the Settlement
Agreement must remain sealed, plaintiffs will be required to
make the requisite showing. To that end, plaintiffs will have
seven days from the date of service of this order to submit
briefing to the court demonstrating that compelling reasons
exist to justify sealing of the Settlement Agreement. In
doing so, plaintiffs should bear in mind that conclusory
assertions of privilege, without more, are insufficient.
See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1184 (“Simply
mentioning a general category of privilege, without any
further elaboration or any specific linkage with the
documents, does not satisfy the burden.”). Nor does the
fact that a document was previously subject to a protective
order necessarily mandate its continued secrecy. Id.
at 1178-79. In addition, Local Rule 140 contemplates that
materials may be redacted rather than sealed in their
entirety.See E. & J. Gallo Winery v.
Instituut Voor Landbouw- En Visserijonderzoek, No.
1:17-cv-00808-DAD-EPG, 2018 WL 3769410, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Aug.
7, 2018); Mack v. Dearborn Nat'l Life Ins., No.
2:14-cv-1665-KJM-DAD, 2014 WL 12572866, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Aug.
26, 2014) (denying plaintiffs request to seal because
plaintiff “fails to explain why some or all of the
exhibits should not be redacted in accordance with Local Rule
140 rather than sealed”). To the extent plaintiffs
believe that redacting the Settlement Agreement is