McCaffery et al v. Alternative Learning Center et al

Filing 54

ORDER signed by District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on 4/11/2017 ORDERING that the 1 complaint, the Government Entities' 46 notice, this order, and all future filings are UNSEALED, but all other contents of the court's file in this action remain under TEMPORARY SEAL pending further order of this court. Within fourteen days, any party may SHOW CAUSE why the previous filings in this action should remain under seal. Relator shall serve the complaint on the defendants. (Zignago, K.)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and STATE OF CALIFORNIA ex rel. BEVERLY MCCAFFERY, 13 Plaintiffs, 14 15 16 No. 2:12-cv-01156-KJM-DB ORDER v. ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CENTER, et al., Defendants. 17 18 On October 18, 2016, the United States and the State of California (the 19 20 Government Entities) filed a joint notice of election to intervention for settlement purposes in this 21 qui tam action brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 et seq., and the 22 California False Claims Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 12652(c)(6)(B). Notice, ECF No. 46. The 23 Government Entities request that the seal be lifted from certain documents in this case, namely 24 the notice and order on intervention, the complaint, and all future filings, but not from the other 25 filings in this case. Id. at 2. These other filings include the United States’ requests for extensions 26 of time to decide whether to intervene, and the declarations and other materials submitted in 27 support of those requests. 28 ///// 1 1 The FCA provides that a qui tam action must be filed under seal while the United 2 States decides whether to intervene, see 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), but it clearly contemplates that 3 after the United States makes a decision, the seal will be lifted, see id. § 3730(b)(3); U.S. ex rel. 4 Lee v. Horizon W., Inc., No. 00-2921, 2006 WL 305966, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2006). 5 Generally, the seal will be lifted entirely “unless the government shows that such disclosure 6 would: (1) reveal confidential investigative methods or techniques; (2) jeopardize an ongoing 7 investigation; or (3) harm non-parties.” Id. “[I]f the documents simply describe routine or 8 general investigative procedures, without implicating specific people or providing substantive 9 details, then the Government may not resist disclosure.” Id.; see also United States v. CACI Int’l. 10 Inc., 885 F. Supp. 80, 83 (S.D.N.Y. 1995). The FCA “evinces no specific intent to permit or deny 11 disclosure of in camera material as a case proceeds.” U.S. ex rel. Mikes v. Straus, 846 F. Supp. 12 21, 23 (S.D.N.Y. 1994). Rather, it “invests the court with authority to preserve secrecy of such 13 items or make them available to the parties.” Id. Overall, the court’s decision must also account 14 for the fundamental principle that court records are generally open to the public. U.S. ex rel. 15 Costa v. Baker & Taylor, Inc., 955 F. Supp. 1188, 1191 (N.D. Cal. 1997). 16 Here, the Government Entities’ request to maintain the seal because “in discussing 17 the content and extent of the Government Entities’ investigation, such papers are provided by law 18 to the Court alone for the sole purpose of evaluating whether the seal and time for making an 19 election to intervene should be extended.” Notice 2. This explanation does not assure the court 20 that a seal is necessary to maintain the confidentiality of “investigative methods or techniques,” to 21 protect ongoing investigations, to protect others who are not a part of this litigation, or for another 22 reason. 23 The court therefore orders as follows: 24 (1) The complaint, ECF No. 1, the Government Entities’ notice, ECF No. 46, this 25 order, and all future filings are UNSEALED, but all other contents of the court’s file in this action 26 remain under TEMPORARY SEAL pending further order of this court; 27 28 (2) Within fourteen days, any party may SHOW CAUSE why the previous filings in this action should remain under seal; and 2 1 (3) Relator shall serve the complaint on the defendants. 2 IT IS SO ORDERED. 3 DATED: April 11, 2017. 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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