United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION TO SEAL RE: DKT.
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is an omnibus administrative motion, in
which Plaintiffs Faye Vaden and Alma Jackson ask the Court to
(1) appoint a guardian ad litem for Plaintiff Jackson; and
(2) seal Plaintiff Jackson's health and financial
records, which were attached in support of the motion.
See Dkt. No. 54. The Court granted the motion in
part on December 4, 2019, appointing Plaintiff Vaden as
guardian ad litem for Plaintiff Jackson. See Dkt.
No. 57. For the reasons detailed below, the Court further
GRANTS the motion to seal.
generally apply a “compelling reasons” standard
when considering motions to seal documents. Pintos v.
Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 678 (9th Cir.
2010) (citing Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of
Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006)).
“This standard derives from the common law right
‘to inspect and copy public records and documents,
including judicial records and documents.'”
Id. (quoting Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178).
“[A] strong presumption in favor of access is the
starting point.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178
(quotation omitted). To overcome this strong presumption, the
party seeking to seal a judicial record attached to a
dispositive motion must “articulate 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” and “significant public
events.” Id. at 1178- 79 (quotation omitted).
“In general, ‘compelling reasons' sufficient
to outweigh the public's interest in disclosure and
justify sealing court records exist when such ‘court
files might have 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.” Id. at 1179 (quoting Nixon
v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978)).
“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.
Court must “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. Civil Local Rule 79-5
supplements the compelling reasons standard set forth in
Kamakana: the party seeking to file a document or
portions of it under seal must “establish that the
document, or portions thereof, are . . . entitled to
protection under the law . . . The request must be narrowly
tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material.”
Civil L.R. 79-5(b).
attached to nondispositive motions, however, are not subject
to the same strong presumption of access. See
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. Because such records
“are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to
the underlying cause of action, ” parties moving to
seal must meet the lower “good cause” standard of
Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Id. at 1179-80 (quotation omitted). This requires
only a “particularized showing” that
“specific prejudice or harm will result” if the
information is disclosed. Phillips ex rel. Estates of
Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-11 (9th
Cir. 2002); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c).
“Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific
examples of articulated reasoning” will not suffice.
Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d
470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (quotation omitted).
Plaintiffs' motion to appoint a guardian ad litem is a
nondispositive motion, the Court applies the lower
“good cause” standard to Plaintiffs' request
to file certain exhibits attached to that motion under seal.
Court finds that good cause exists to seal Dkt. Nos. 54-3,
Exs. 1 & 2; 54-5; and 54-6, as they consist of highly
sensitive and otherwise confidential medical and banking
records, as well as references to these records. And the
Court finds that the public's interest in disclosure of
this information is low as these records are not the subject
of the lawsuit. See San Ramon Reg'l
Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Principal Life Ins. Co., No.
10-cv-02258-SBA, 2011 WL 89931, at *1, n.1 (N.D. Cal. Jan.
10, 2011) (finding that confidentiality of medical records
under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
of 1996 outweighed presumption in favor of public access to
court records). Rather, they were attached to explain
Plaintiff Jackson's need for a guardian ad litem to
pursue this action.
Plaintiffs' counsel proposed redactions to Plaintiff
Jackson's medical and financial records at Dkt. Nos.
54-3, Exs. 1 & 2, the Court finds that good cause exists
to seal these records in their entirety. See Id.
Even in redacted form, the documents reveal sensitive
information to which the public has no need to review as part
of this action. The Court cautions Plaintiffs' counsel to
act with care in the future before filing her clients'
medical information on the public docket. Accordingly, the
Court GRANTS the motion to seal as to Dkt.
Nos. 54-3; 54-5; and 54-6 in their entirety. Plaintiffs'
counsel shall file a fully redacted version of Dkt. No. ...