United States District Court, E.D. California
DEVONTE B. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
K. KYLE, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO SEAL (ECF
Devonte B. Harris, is a state prisoner proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is
Plaintiff’s request to seal documents. (ECF No. 8.)
Plaintiff moves to seal all documents related to this case,
including the complaint, because this action relates to
Plaintiff’s mental health and the mental health
treatment Plaintiff received or did not receive. The Court
will deny the motion.
documents filed with the court are presumptively public.
Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d
1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (“Historically, courts have
recognized a ‘general right to inspect and copy public
records and documents, including judicial records and
documents.’”) (quoting Nixon v. Warner
Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 & n.7 (1978));
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.”). The party seeking to seal a particular
judicial record has the burden of overcoming the presumption
of public access. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178. To
meet this burden, the party must articulate “compelling
reasons” that outweigh “the general history of
access” to court records and “public policies
favoring disclosure.” Id. 1178-79 (citations
Court must “conscientiously balance” the
“competing interests” of the public and the party
seeking to seal the judicial record. Id. at 1179.
The determination as to what constitutes a “compelling
reason” is within the Court’s “sound
discretion.” Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler
Group, LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir. 2016).
Examples of compelling reasons include where a record might
“become a vehicle for improper purposes, ” such
as to “gratify private spite, promote public scandal,
circulate libelous statements, or release trade
secrets.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179.
Plaintiff’s seeks to seal the entire court record. In
support of his request, Plaintiff cites to the
confidentiality and privacy generally provided for mental
health records. Plaintiff contends that, because this action
relates to his mental health and mental health treatment, the
entire court record should be sealed to preserve his general
right to privacy and confidentiality. (ECF No. 8.)
privacy of mental health information is important, a general
appeal to the private nature of the case does not, without
more, justify sealing it. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at
1179. This is because even embarrassing information and
documents are not exempt from the public’s right to
access. See Id . (“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.”) (citing Foltz v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1136 (9th Cir. 2003)).
Indeed, because the purpose of sealing documents is to hide
them from public view, some interest in privacy or
confidentiality is at the heart of nearly every request to
because of the “strong presumption in favor of access
to court records, ” Center for Auto
Safety, 809 F.3d at 1096, and because Plaintiff has not
articulated any specific reason, other than the general
subject matter of the action-his mental health-for why the
entire court record and his complaint should be sealed,
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178, Plaintiff’s motion
to seal the entire record, including his complaint, will be
Court notes, however, that this ruling does not foreclose
Plaintiff from requesting, in the future, that certain
documents be filed under seal. In making such requests,
Plaintiff must comply with all applicable Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and the Local Rules, including Local Rules
140 and 141. The Court’s ruling also does not foreclose
Plaintiff from seeking a protective order in relation to such
documents, as provided for under Local Rule 141.1 and Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). The Court also provides
Plaintiff with the following additional guidance.
standards generally govern requests to seal. 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.” Kamakana, 447
F.3d at 1180 (citations omitted). In contrast, a
“‘good cause’ showing under Rule 26(c) will
suffice to keep sealed records attached to non-dispositive
motions.” Id. 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
[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.
Kamakana, 447 F.3d 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).
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