United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO FILE
DOCUMENTS UNDER SEAL [ECF NO. 45]
Mitchell D. Dembin United States Magistrate Judge.
Shariffe Vaughn, a state prisoner, filed this civil rights
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1). On
August 1, 2019, Defendant Correctional Officer A. Parker
(“Defendant”) filed a motion for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff opposes the motion and
seeks to file evidence supporting his opposition under seal.
(ECF Nos. 44, 45). Defendant avers that the supporting
evidence submitted should not be filed under seal (ECF No.
48) and Plaintiff replied (ECF No. 49). For the reasons
stated herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs
motion to file documents under seal.
have historically recognized a “general right to
inspect and copy records and documents, including judicial
records and documents.” Nixon v. Warner
Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 n.7 (1978).
“Unless a particular court record is one
‘traditionally kept secret,' a ‘strong
presumption in favor of access is the starting point.”
Kamakana v. City and Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d
1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Foltz v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir.
2003)). “The presumption of access is ‘based on
the need for federal courts, although independent-indeed,
particularly because they are independent-to have a measure
of accountability and for the public to have confidence in
the administration of justice.” Ctr. for Auto
Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th
Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d
1044, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995)).
party moves to file under seal a motion or documents attached
to a motion, the focus is on the underlying motion and
whether it is “more than tangentially related to the
underlying cause of action.” Ctr. for Auto
Safety, 809 F.3d at 1099. If the motion is more than
tangentially related to the merits, like here, the movant
must show compelling reasons for overcoming the presumption
in favor of public access. See Id. at 1096-99.
a party seeking to seal a judicial record can overcome the
presumption in favor of access by “articulating]
compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings . .
. that outweigh the general history of access and the public
policies favoring disclosure, such as the public interest in
understanding the judicial process.” Kamakana,
447 F.3d at 1178 (citations omitted) (internal quotations
marks omitted). “In turn, the court must
‘conscientiously balance  the competing
interests' of the public and the party who seeks to keep
certain judicial records secret.” Id. at 1179
(quoting Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135). “What
constitutes a ‘compelling reason' is ‘best
left to the sound discretion of the trial court.'”
Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1097 (quoting
Nixon, 435 U.S. at 599).
seeks to seal several inmate declarations in support of his
opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment for
“considerations of confidentiality and individual
safety.” (ECF Nos. 45 at 2, 45-1 at 1). Plaintiff
explains that “publishing confidential information in a
prison context” subjects inmates to potential
“retribution, ” “negatively affect[ing]
the[ir] well-being, ” and will “dissuade others
from reporting wrongdoing by correctional officers.”
(ECF No. 49 at 2). Plaintiff claims that “hundreds of
years of human history . . . demonstrate[ing] the cruelty of
prison staff against prisoners” supports his assertions
of potential retribution, dissuasion of others from reporting
wrongdoing, and threat to the inmates' well-being.
(Id. at 3). Defendant opposes sealing the
declarations, arguing Plaintiff fails to meet the compelling
reasons standard. (ECF No. 48 at 4).
indicated previously, the movant must “articulate
reasons supported by specific factual findings” to
warrant sealing supporting declarations related to a
dispositive motion, such as a motion for summary judgment.
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Here, there are insufficient facts to support the
alleged harm. As presented to the Court, Plaintiffs concerns
regarding retaliation, retribution, or dissuasion of others
from reporting wrongdoing is speculation. The Court must rule
on motions to seal “without relying on hypothesis or
conjecture.” Id. at 1179 (quoting Hagestad
v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995)).
Accordingly, Plaintiff does not meet the compelling reasons
on the foregoing, the Court DENIES
Plaintiffs motion to seal documents. (ECF No. 45). If
Plaintiff decides to use the declarations as supporting
evidence for the opposition to Defendant's motion for
summary judgment, ...