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Stevenson v. Holland

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 6, 2019

DOUGLAS J. STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
K. HOLLAND et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING REQUEST TO LIFT PROTECTIVE ORDER FOR CERTAIN DOCUMENTS (DOC. NO. 86)

         I. Introduction

         This lawsuit is about a prisoner, Plaintiff Douglas Stevenson, who allegedly was physically abused by prison officers on November 11, 2012, and December 7, 2012. Plaintiff sued the prison officers for cruel and unusual punishment, assault, battery, and negligence. During discovery the parties entered into a stipulated protective order, which the Court issued. See Doc. No. 48. The protective order permits the parties to designate certain materials as “Confidential, ” and the protective order largely precludes the parties from publicly disclosing materials designated as “Confidential.” Defendants recently moved the Court for summary judgment. In opposing Defendants' summary judgment motion, Plaintiff wants to publicly file certain “Confidential” documents. Accordingly, Plaintiff has asked the Court to lift the protective order's applicability to the documents at issue. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will grant Plaintiffs request.

         II. Plaintiffs Request to Lift the Protective Order

         Plaintiff has six “batches” of documents that he wants to publicly file in conjunction with his opposition to Defendants' summary judgment motion:

1) “Exhibit AA, ” which is a document from the prison that shows the bed history and cell locations of inmates on December 7, 2012.
2) “Exhibit BB, ” which are documents from the prison that report and summarize the use-of-force incident with Plaintiff on December 7, 2012. Also included is the prison's “Use of Force Participant Workbook.” 3) “Exhibit CC, ” which are excerpts of Defendant M. Crotty's deposition transcript in this lawsuit. Defendant M. Crotty is one of the prison officers who allegedly abused Plaintiff.
4) “Exhibit DD, ” which are documents about use-of-force incidents on March 13, 2014, and December 26, 2014, involving Defendant M. Crotty and another prisoner (i.e., not Plaintiff). The documents include information about the prison's response to the use-of-force incidents, including disciplinary action imposed on Defendant M. Crotty.
5) “Exhibit V-2, ” which is a supplemental expert report from plaintiffs use-of-force expert, Daniel Fulks, that discusses Defendant M. Crotty's disciplinary history with the prison and his involvement in the use-of-force incident on March 13, 2014, including his reporting obligations for the use-of-force incident and his alleged failure to fulfill those obligations. Fulks relied on Exhibits AA, BB, CC, and DD to form the opinions in his supplemental expert report.
6) Plaintiffs unredacted memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to Defendants' summary judgment motion. The memorandum discusses some of the information in Fulks' supplemental expert report, Exhibit V-2, about Defendant M. Crotty.

         Plaintiff argues that the protective order should be lifted as to the foregoing documents because, first, the documents are material to Plaintiffs claims and, second, there is no compelling reason or good cause for keeping the documents sealed from the public. Plaintiff also correctly notes that since Defendants want the documents sealed, then the burden is on Defendants to show either compelling reasons or good cause for keeping the documents sealed from the public.

         Defendants oppose Plaintiffs request, arguing that the documents should remain subject to the protective order and sealed from the public because the documents are irrelevant to Defendants' summary judgment motion. According to Defendants, Plaintiffs “only reason” for publicly filing the documents is to “promote public scandal and satisfy the private spite that Plaintiff may hold against Defendants.” Doc. No. 88 at 10.

         III. 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). “[T]he courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th Cir. 2016) (citations omitted).

         Two standards generally govern the sealing of documents filed with the Court: the “compelling reasons” standard for materials directly related to the underlying causes of action, such as documents attached to summary judgment briefs, and the lesser “good cause” standard for materials ...


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