Emmons et al v. Quest Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories, Inc. et al

Filing 93

ORDER Denying 92 Request to Seal and ORDERING Plaintiffs to Submit Documents, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 1/29/2017. (Gaumnitz, R)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 DOROTHEA EMMONS, et al., 12 13 14 15 16 17 No. 1:13-cv-00474-DAD-BAM Plaintiffs, v. QUEST DIAGNOSTICS CLINICAL LABORATORIES, INC., et al., ORDER DENYING REQUEST TO SEAL AND ORDERING PLAINTIFFS TO SUBMIT DOCUMENTS Defendants. This matter is a putative class action originally filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court 18 and removed to this court on April 1, 2013. (Doc. No. 1.) The court granted preliminary 19 approval of a class action settlement and preliminary certification of the class on June 22, 2016, 20 though the court noted at that time it expected further evidence in the form of declarations and 21 affidavits would be submitted on the issue of commonality prior to the final fairness hearing. 22 (Doc. No. 81.) On December 20, 2016, plaintiffs’ motions for attorneys’ fees and for final 23 approval of the class action settlement were heard. (Doc. Nos. 86, 88, 90.) At that hearing, the 24 court indicated that the evidence presented on the issue of commonality was insufficient and 25 directed plaintiffs to file supplemental briefing including additional evidence of commonality. 26 Plaintiffs filed this supplement briefing on January 17, 2017, as directed. (Doc. No. 91.) 27 However, the supplement briefing was also accompanied by a request to seal certain documents. 28 (Doc. No. 92.) For the reasons set forth below, that request to file under seal must be denied. 1 1 LEGAL STANDARD 2 All documents filed with the court are presumptively public. San Jose Mercury News, 3 Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 187 F.3d 1096, 1103 (9th Cir. 1999) (“It is well-established that the fruits 4 of pretrial discovery are, in the absence of a court order to the contrary, presumptively public.”). 5 Pursuant to Rule 5.2(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court “may order that a filing 6 be made under seal without redaction.” However, even if a court orders such a filing, it may 7 “later unseal the filing or order the person who made the filing to file a redacted version for the 8 public record.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(d). “Historically, courts have recognized a ‘general right to 9 inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.’” 10 Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Nixon v. 11 Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 & n.7 (1978)). 12 13 Two standards generally govern requests to seal documents. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass’n, 605 F.3d 665, 677 (9th Cir. 2010). 14 [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. A “good cause” showing under Rule 26(c) will suffice to keep sealed records attached to non-dispositive motions. 15 16 17 18 Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180 (citations omitted). Under the “compelling reasons” standard 19 applicable to dispositive motions such as the one at issue here,1 20 [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 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 While courts frequently use the language of “dispositive” and “non-dispositive,” 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.” Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1101 (9th Cir. 2016). Thus, in certain 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 actually dispositive of an issue or claim, may be subjected to the “compelling reasons” test, predicated on the public’s right of access and the need to “provide the public with a more complete understanding of the judicial system and a better perception of its fairness.” Id. at 1097–1101 (quoting Leucadia, Inc. v. Applied Extrusion Techs., Inc., 998 F.2d 157, 161 (3d Cir. 1993)). 2 1 reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or conjecture. 2 3 Id. at 1178–79 (internal quotation marks, omissions, and citations omitted). The party seeking to 4 seal a judicial record bears the burden of meeting the “compelling reasons” standard. Id. at 1178; 5 Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003). 6 “In general, ‘compelling reasons’ sufficient to . . . justify sealing court records exist when 7 such ‘court files might . . . become a vehicle for improper purposes,’ such as the use of records to 8 gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade 9 secrets.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598). “The mere fact that the 10 production of records may lead to a litigant’s embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to 11 further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records.” Id. “The 12 ‘compelling reasons’ standard is invoked even if the dispositive motion, or its attachments, were 13 previously filed under seal or protective order.” Id. at 1178–79. 14 15 DISCUSSION The request to file under seal now pending before the court relates to a motion for final 16 approval of a class action settlement. The undersigned concludes that it is therefore governed by 17 the “compelling reasons” standard as it disposes of all federal proceedings and is fully related to 18 the merits of the case. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (noting a motion to dismiss or permit 19 maintenance of a class action may not be heard by a magistrate judge absent consent to magistrate 20 judge jurisdiction for all purposes); Center for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1101 (applying the 21 compelling reasons standard to any motion “more than tangentially related to the merits of the 22 case”); Flam v. Flam, 788 F.3d 1043, 1047 (9th Cir. 2015) (noting that where a motion is 23 “dispositive of all federal proceedings in a case, . . . [it] is properly characterized as a dispositive 24 motion under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)”); Strong v. United States, 57 F. Supp. 2d 908, 913–14 25 (N.D. Cal. 1999) (describing the excepted motions under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) as dispositive 26 motions); Adolph Coors Co. v. Wallace, 570 F. Supp. 202, 204–05 (N.D. Cal. 1983) (noting a 27 district judge must provide de novo review of any dispositive motions listed under 28 U.S.C. 28 § 636(b)(1)(A)). Therefore, the party seeking to seal the documents in question in this instance 3 1 must demonstrate “compelling reasons” exist to justify sealing them. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 2 1178–80. 3 Here, in attempting to demonstrate commonality, plaintiffs have submitted to the court 4 various labor policy documents provided in discovery by defendants. (Doc. No. 92 at 2.) 5 Plaintiffs assert “such documents are internal operating policies that are maintained confidentially 6 by Defendants and are not publicly disseminated, and have not been made public in this 7 litigation.” (Doc. No. 92 at 2.) This statement, however, falls far short of demonstrating the 8 documents might “‘become a vehicle for improper purposes,’ such as the use of records to gratify 9 private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets.” Id. 10 at 1179 (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598). Moreover, the court has examined the documents in 11 question, and nothing on their face suggests they are sensitive, scandalous, or might be used to 12 further nefarious or improper purposes if disclosed to the public. 13 CONCLUSION 14 For the reasons set forth above, the request to file under seal (Doc. No. 92) is denied 15 without prejudice to its renewal supported by a proper showing satisfying the compelling reasons 16 standard discussed above. See Local Rule 141(e). Within seven (7) days of the service of this 17 order, plaintiffs must file a notice with the court indicating whether they (1) will seek to file the 18 documents in question on the public docket; (2) will seek to renew the request to seal with a 19 proper showing of compelling reasons for the requested sealing; or (3) wish the court to simply 20 rule upon their motions for attorneys’ fees and for final approval of class action settlement based 21 on the materials already filed with the court. If plaintiffs file a notice indicating that they will 22 seek to renew the request to seal supported by a proper showing, the renewed request to seal must 23 be filed within seven (7) days thereafter. 24 Recognizing that it may be defendants here who are better suited to justify the need for the 25 filing of these documents under seal, if plaintiffs file a notice of an intent to file the documents on 26 the public record, they are directed to simultaneously identify for defense counsel which 27 documents they intend to so file with the court. Defense counsel will then have fourteen (14) 28 days from the date of service of the notice of intention to file unsealed documents to submit a 4 1 request that the documents be filed under seal supported by an appropriate showing of compelling 2 reasons. Any opposition to such a request should be filed in accordance with Local Rule 141(c). 3 If defendants do not request the documents be filed under seal within the time provided, plaintiffs 4 shall file the documents with the court on the public docket within three (3) days following the 5 expiration of the above period. 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. 7 Dated: January 29, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?