(PC) Ruiz v. Clark et al

Filing 37

ORDER GRANTING 36 Motion to Seal, In Part, and Setting Response Date to Defendants' 35 Motion for Summary Judgment, signed by Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean on 7/19/2021. (Marrujo, C)

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Case 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG Document 37 Filed 07/19/21 Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 GEORGE RUIZ, 10 11 12 13 Case No. 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG (PC) Plaintiff, v. ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO SEAL, IN PART, AND SETTING RESPONSE DATE TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT KEN CLARK, et al., (ECF Nos. 35, 36) Defendants. 14 15 Plaintiff George Ruiz is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this 16 civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Generally, the complaint brings claims 17 concerning treatment of Plaintiff and other inmates classified as STG Surenos following a fight 18 that occurred on September 28, 2018 with the STG Bulldogs. (ECF No. 1). 19 On July 15, 2021, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff 20 failed to administratively exhaust any claim brought in the complaint. (ECF No. 35). Defendants 21 also filed a notice of request to seal documents, seeking to “to seal Exhibit B to the declarations 22 of J. Mendez and H. Moseley filed in support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment 23 (Exhaustion) (ECF No. 35).” (ECF No. 36). Defendants identify the document to be sealed as 24 “Group Appeal Log No. COR-18-06047” and state that “[t]his request for sealing is based on 25 institutional safety and security, and on inmates’ right to privacy and confidentiality.” 26 Defendants state that the request to seal documents (the request to seal is a separate 27 document from the notice of request to seal) and proposed order have been served on Plaintiff, 28 but they did not serve Plaintiff with the exhibits requested to be sealed. Defendants have not filed 1 Case 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG Document 37 Filed 07/19/21 Page 2 of 5 1 the request to seal, proposed order, or exhibits requested to be sealed, but they have emailed them 2 to the Court. 3 For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant, the request to seal, construed as a motion 4 to seal in part. It will allow the documents to be filed under seal, but will require filing of the 5 documents in redacted form. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 7(b)(1) (“A request for a court order must be 6 made by motion.”). 7 “Historically, courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and copy public records 8 and documents, including judicial records and documents.’” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of 9 Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 10 U.S. 589, 597 & n.7 (1978)); see also Local Rule 141 (“Documents may be sealed only by written 11 order of the Court, upon the showing required by applicable law.”). Unless a particular court 12 record is one “traditionally kept secret,” a “strong presumption in favor of access” is the starting 13 point for this Court’s inquiry. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178 (citations omitted). In order to 14 overcome this strong presumption, a party seeking to seal a judicial record must meet the 15 compelling-reasons standard by articulating compelling reasons, which are supported by specific 16 facts, that outweigh the historical right of access and the public policies favoring disclosure. Id. at 17 1178–79; see Reberger v. Vern, No. 3:17-cv-00077-MMD-WGC, 2019 WL 5889293, at *2 (D. 18 Nev. Nov. 12, 2019) (applying compelling-reasons standard where defendants sought “to file 19 exhibits under seal in connection with their motion for summary judgment”). The Court must 20 “conscientiously balance” the “competing interests” of the public and the party seeking to seal the 21 judicial record. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (citation omitted). The determination as to what 22 constitutes a “compelling reason” is within the Court’s “sound discretion.” Center for Auto Safety 23 v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted) 24 As an initial matter, the Court notes that the Defendants’ notice of request to seal documents 25 contains no legal argument. (ECF No. 36). Rather, Defendants’ request to seal, which was not filed 26 of record, but was emailed to the Court, contains all the relevant legal argument. Defendants do not 27 explain (and the Court sees no basis) why the request was not filed of record. The reason cannot be 28 that the request itself contains information sought to be sealed, as Defendants served the request on 2 Case 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG Document 37 Filed 07/19/21 Page 3 of 5 1 2 Plaintiff. Accordingly, the Court will order Defendants to file their request to seal of record. Turning to the merits of the request, Defendants seek to seal two different exhibits (both 3 labeled as Exhibit B) to the declarations of J. Mendez and H. Moseley, which declarations are 4 included in support of the motion for summary judgment. (See ECF Nos. 35-4, 35-5). Defendants 5 state that the exhibits relate to a group appeal filed by other inmates, and not joined by Plaintiff, 6 that concerns the subject matter of this suit. Defendants argue that these exhibits support their 7 argument that Plaintiff never exhausted his administrative remedies. 8 As grounds for sealing, the Defendants argue as follows: 9 15 The information contained within the document to be sealed includes the names, CDCR numbers, assignments, unit and cell numbers, and dated signatures of 14 inmates. The disclosure of inmate names and CDCR numbers would violate the inmates’ right to privacy. Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations also prohibits the disclosure of an inmate’s personal information to another inmate. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, §§ 3450(e), 3402(a), 3321. And, the disclosure of such personal information is prohibited by California Civil Code Section 1798.24, unless certain requirements are met, including notice if disclosure is made pursuant to court order. The disclosure of the identities of involved inmates could also present further security risks because of gang affiliations. Redaction is also not feasible or practical, because the confidential information is contained throughout the entire document. This request for sealing is therefore based on institutional safety and security, and inmates’ right to privacy and the confidentiality. 16 The Court finds these reasons compelling enough to outweigh the presumption of public 10 11 12 13 14 17 access to some of the information contained within the exhibits. First, the Court finds compelling 18 Defendants’ desire to prohibit Plaintiff from possessing personal information (such as 19 assignments and cell numbers) of other inmates. Gamez v. Gonzalez, No. 08CV1113 MJL PCL, 20 2011 WL 1087090, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 24, 2011) (noting that California law generally prohibits 21 inmates from possessing records related to other inmates). Likewise, the Court concludes that 22 prohibiting Plaintiff from learning the gang affiliations of the other inmates to be a compelling 23 reason. Id. at *4 (“Contained within a debriefing report is information regarding the inmate’s 24 gang activity and active gang affiliates. Debriefing reports are kept in the confidential section of 25 the prison central files of those inmates who have debriefed. If another inmate were to learn the 26 name and CDC number of an informant, it would place the informant’s safety in danger. Thus, 27 disclosure of debriefing reports to Plaintiff would create a hazard to the safety and security of the 28 institution. Also, because debriefing reports are stored in the inmate’s central file, disclosure of 3 Case 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG Document 37 Filed 07/19/21 Page 4 of 5 1 this information to Plaintiff would violate other inmates’ privacy.”). 2 However, Defendants will be directed to file a redacted copy, removing the personal 3 information of the relevant inmates and any other portions implicating prison safety and security. 4 While the Court recognizes that Defendants argue that “redaction is also not feasible or practical, 5 because the confidential information is contained throughout the entire document,” the Court 6 disagrees. At the very least, being able to read the heading, dates, and descriptions of the 7 complained of conduct in the exhibits will be of benefit to Plaintiff in formulating his response to 8 the motion for summary judgment, even if a substantial amount of information is otherwise 9 redacted. 10 Accordingly, as explained above, IT IS ORDERED as follows: 11 1. Defendants’ request to seal documents, construed as a motion to seal, is granted, in part; 12 2. No later than July 23, 2021, Defendants shall file a copy of their request to seal documents 13 in an identical form to that which was provided to the Court by email; 14 3. Upon the filing of the request to seal documents, construed as a motion to seal, the Clerk 15 of Court is directed to term the construed motion as granted pursuant to this order; 16 4. No later than July 23, 2021, Defendants shall file, under seal, unredacted copies of 17 Exhibits B to the declarations of H. Moseley and J. Mendez. (ECF Nos. 35-4, 35-5); see 18 Local Rule 140(b) (“A party that makes a redacted filing may also file an unredacted copy 19 under seal if the Court so orders. The unredacted copy will be retained by the Court under 20 seal as part of the record.”); 21 5. Also no later than July 23, 2021, Defendant shall file a redacted version of these exhibits 22 redacting any information revealing personal information about inmates or implicating 23 prison safety and security concerns, but including the date, general subject matter, and any 24 other non-confidential information; 25 \\\ 26 \\\ 27 \\\ 28 6. Plaintiff shall file his response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 4 Case 1:20-cv-00893-AWI-EPG Document 37 Filed 07/19/21 Page 5 of 5 1 35) within 21 days after being served with a copy of the unredacted exhibits. See Local 2 Rule 230(l). 3 4 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 19, 2021 /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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