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Cox v. Roadrunner Intermodal Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 15, 2019

JEFFREY COX, Plaintiff,
v.
ROADRUNNER INTERMODAL SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, CENTRAL CAL TRANSPORTATION, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and DOES 1 through 50, Defendants. ROADRUNNER INTERMODAL SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Counter-Plaintiff and Defendant,
v.
JEFFREY COX, Counter-Defendant and Plaintiff. ROADRUNNER INTERMODAL SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
T.G.S. TRANSPORTATION, INC., a California corporation, and DOES 1-10, Defendants.

         (consolidated)

          ORDER GRANTING TGS TRANSPORTATION, INC.'S REQUEST TO SEAL DOCUMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH REPLY TO ITS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NOS. 228, 230)

         On June 7, 2019, TGS Transportation (“TGS”) filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 218.) On July 9, 2019, TGS filed a request to seal, seeking to file a redacted version of its reply in support of its motion for summary judgment. (See Doc. Nos. 228, 230). Having considered TGS's submissions, the court will grant TGS's request and permit TGS to file a redacted copy of its reply on the docket.

         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.”).[1]“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). The Ninth Circuit has recognized as follows:

[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 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).

         Under the “compelling reasons” standard:

[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 Cir. 2003).

         While 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)).[2]

         “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.

         ANALYSIS

         Because the pending request to seal has been filed in connection with a motion for summary judgment, the “compelling reasons” standard applies. See Xie v. De Young Properties 5418, LP, No. 1:16-cv-01518-DAD-SKO, 2018 WL 3241068, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 2, 2018); Figueroa v. City ...


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