United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF'S ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL RE:
DKT. NO. 156
H. KOH United States District Judge
31, 2019, a subset of the defendants in this case (the
“Moving Defendants”) filed a motion to transfer
the case to the Northern District of Texas pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1404(a). ECF No. 110. Plaintiff Continental
Automotive Systems, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) filed its
Opposition to the motion to transfer venue
(“Opposition”) on August 28, 2019. ECF No. 157.
Before the Court is Plaintiff's administrative motion to
seal portions of the Opposition and certain materials
attached thereto. ECF No. 156. Having reviewed
Plaintiff's submissions and the applicable sealing law,
the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the
administrative motion to seal.
courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and
copy public records and documents, including judicial records
and documents.'” Kamakana v. City & Cnty.
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)). As the Ninth Circuit has
explained, this is a “common law right, ”
United States v. Doe, 870 F.3d 991, 996 (9th Cir.
2017), reflecting the American judicial system's
longstanding commitment to “the open courtroom, ”
Oliner v. Kontrabecki, 745 F.3d 1024, 1025 (9th Cir.
2014). The public policy favoring public access to judicial
proceedings applies equally to court records because
“court records often provide important, sometimes the
only, bases or explanations for a court's
decision.” Id. Accordingly, when considering a
sealing request, “a strong presumption in favor of
access is the starting point.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
precise, the strong presumption of access to judicial records
applies fully to filings that are “more than
tangentially related to the underlying cause of
action.” Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler
Grp., 809 F.3d 1092, 1099 (9th Cir. 2016). That
presumption can only be overcome by a showing of
“compelling reasons” that “outweigh the
general history of access and the public policies favoring
disclosure.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178
(internal quotation marks omitted). The party seeking to seal
a judicial record bears the burden of “articulat[ing]
compelling reasons supported by specific factual
findings.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Compelling reasons justifying the sealing of court
records generally 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, 435 U.S. at 598). By contrast, “[t]he
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. at 1178-79.
the Ninth Circuit has “carved out an exception”
to the presumption of access for materials filed in
connection with motions that are not “more than
tangentially related to the underlying cause of
action.” Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at
1099. Because “the public has less of a need for
access” to documents that are “unrelated, or only
tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action,
” parties moving to seal such documents need only meet
the lower “good cause” standard of Rule 26(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Kamakana, 447
F.3d at 1179. Still, the “good cause” standard
requires 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) (citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P.
26(c). “Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by
specific examples or articulated reasoning” will not
suffice. Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co.,
966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).
Court begins, as it must, with the question of what test to
apply to Plaintiff's motion- "the presumptive
‘compelling reasons' standard or the ‘good
cause' exception.” Ctr. for Auto Safety,
809 F.3d at 1097.
determining whether the good cause exception covers a
particular filing, the Ninth Circuit has previously
distinguished between “dispositive” and
“nondispositive” motions. Ctr. for Auto
Safety, 809 F.3d at 1097; see, e.g., In re
Midland Nat. Life Ins. Co. Annuity Sales Practices
Litig., 686 F.3d 1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2012) (“This
exception is ‘expressly limited to” judicial
records filed under seal when attached to a non-dispositive
motion.”). Based on this case law, Plaintiff contends
that the “good cause” exception applies to the
documents at issue in the instant sealing motion, which were
filed in connection with a motion to transfer venue.
See ECF No. 156 at 1 (quoting Kamakana, 447
F.3d at 1180 (“A ‘good cause' showing under
Rule 26(c) will suffice to keep sealed records attached to
non-dispositive motions.”)). A motion to transfer venue
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is indisputably
Center for Auto Safety, however, the Ninth Circuit
clarified its doctrine in this area. There, the Ninth Circuit
rejected the proposition that the compelling reasons test is
limited “to only those cases in which the motion at
issue is literally dispositive.” 809 F.3d at 1098. The
Ninth Circuit held that the appropriate sealing standard
instead turns on whether “the motion at issue is more
than tangentially related to the underlying cause of
action.” Id. at 1099. As the Ninth Circuit
pointed out, it had crafted the “good cause”
standard for “sealed materials attached to a discovery
motion unrelated to the merits of a case.” Id.
at 1097 (citing Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen.
Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1213-14 (9th Cir. 2002)).
Indeed, “the ‘good cause' language comes from
[Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 26(c)(1), which governs
the issuance of protective orders in the discovery
process.” Id. The Center for Auto
Safety court went on to explain that “[a]pplying
the good cause standard from Rule 26(c) as an exception for
discovery-related motions makes sense” because
“‘much of the information that surfaces during
pretrial discovery may be unrelated, or only tangentially
related, to the underlying cause of action.'”
Id. (citing Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1213).
Consequently, “the private interests of litigants are
‘the only weights on the scale'” when sealing
a discovery-related motion. Id.
contrast, most other litigation in a case “is not
literally ‘dispositive,' but nevertheless involves
important issues and information to which our case law
demands the public should have access.” Id. at
1098. For that reason, said the Ninth Circuit, such
nondispositive litigation implicates the “long held
interest in ensuring the public's understanding of the
judicial process and of significant public events.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The Ninth
Circuit's opinion relied in part on the First
Circuit's approach, under which “the public has a
right of access to ‘materials on which a court relies
in determining the litigants' substantive rights'
which are ‘distinguished from those that relate merely
to the judge's role in management of the
trial.'” Id. (quoting United States v.
Kravetz, 706 F.3d 47, 54 (1st Cir. 2013). Accordingly,
in finding that the compelling reasons standard applies to a
motion for a preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit
emphasized that preliminary injunctions “may certainly
affect litigants' substantive rights” and
“invoke important Article III powers.”
Id. at 1100.
upshot of the Center for Auto Safety decision is
that nondispositive motions that are “more than
tangentially related to the underlying cause of action”
remain subject to the compelling reasons standard.
Id. at 1101; see Intel Corp. v. Tela
Innovations, Inc., No. 3:18-CV-02848-WHO, 2018 WL
4501146, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2018). Hence,
Plaintiff's argument that the “good cause”
standard applies to the instant sealing motion because it
concerns a motion to transfer venue is based on an outdated
statement of Ninth Circuit law.
Ninth Circuit has not decided the specific issue presented by
the instant motion- namely, whether a motion to transfer
venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) falls within the
“good cause” exception. Based on the principles
in Center for Auto Safety, the Court concludes that
the motion to transfer venue is more than tangentially
related to the underlying cause of action and therefore
applies the compelling reasons standard. A motion to transfer
venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) requires the Court to
find that “the transferee district has personal
jurisdiction over all of the Defendants.”
Ponomarenko v. Shapiro, 287 F.Supp.3d 816, 834 (N.D.
Cal. 2018); Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 344
(1960). Personal jurisdiction, of course, implicates a
litigant's due process rights. Myers v. Bennett Law
Offices, 238 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir. 2001). Thus,
although the motion to transfer turns in part on
“convenience of parties and witnesses, ” 28
U.S.C. § 1404(a), the motion also “affect[s] [the]
litigants substantive rights, ” Ctr. for Auto
Safety, 809 F.3d at 1098.
motion to transfer may also be closely related to the
underlying cause of action where, as here, personal
jurisdiction is based on specific jurisdiction-i.e.,
“jurisdiction for a cause of action that arises out of
the defendant's forum-related activities.”
Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et
L'Antisemitisme, 433 F.3d 1199, 1205 (9th Cir.
2006). That is because the specific jurisdiction inquiry
requires the Court to analyze the underlying cause of action
to determine whether it “arises out of the
defendant's forum-related activities.” Id.
The instant case involves, inter alia, allegations
of anticompetitive behavior under the federal antitrust laws.
Specific jurisdiction therefore turns in part on whether
Defendants' “allegedly anticompetitive behavior is
targeted at a resident of the forum, or at the forum
itself.” In re Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Antitrust
Litig., 27 F.Supp.3d 1002, 1011 (N.D. Cal. 2014). Hence,
unlike “information that surfaces during pretrial
discovery” that ultimately proves irrelevant to the
suit, see Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1213, the materials
sought to be sealed here cannot be said to be merely
tangential to the underlying cause of action.
these reasons, the Court holds that the “good
cause” exception is inappropriate and that the
presumptive compelling reasons ...