Schmuckley et al v. Rite Aid Corporation

Filing 363

ORDER signed by Chief District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on 10/15/2020 GRANTING 344 Notice of Request to Seal Documents to the extent explained. The court DIRECTS defendant to file the redacted documents within 7 days of this order, and to concurrently provide the Clerk of Court with the corresponding unredacted documents for filing under seal. (Huang, H)

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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, et al., ex rel. LOYD F. SCHMUCKLEY, JR., Plaintiff, 13 14 15 v. No. 2:12-CV-01699-KJM-EFB ORDER RITE AID CORPORATION, Defendant. 16 17 Relator has filed a notice of request to seal, ECF No. 344, along with an in camera 18 request for the sealing or redaction of the documents defendants seek to file in connection with 19 their opposition to plaintiff’s pending motion to amend. See ECF Nos. 318 and 318-2. Relators’ 20 filing is consistent with the procedures this court requires with respect to sealing requests, 21 recognizing the burden to justify sealing or redaction rests with the person or party claiming 22 confidentiality in the information covered by a request. 23 24 I. INTRODUCTION Relator’s motion asserts the documents covered by its motion contain information 25 appropriated sealed or redacted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2 and Local Rules 140 26 and 141, because they are employee pay stubs, including social security numbers, addresses, full 27 names and birthdates. Each of these documents is submitted as evidence in support of 28 1 1 defendant’s opposition to plaintiff’s motion to join defendant subsidiaries. ECF No. 315. This 2 court has reviewed defendant’s motion and now GRANTS it for the following reasons. 3 4 II. DISCUSSION The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Eastern District of California Local 5 Rules require the redaction of documents containing an individual’s personal information, with 6 the exception of the following: “(1) the last four digits of the social-security number and 7 taxpayer-identification number; (2) the year of the individual’s birth; (3) the minor’s initials; and 8 (4) the last four digits of the financial-account number.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a); Local Rule 140(a) 9 (prohibits home addresses in addition to the prohibitions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a)(1)). Both rules 10 authorize the redaction of such information without a court order. Federal Rule of Civil 11 Procedure 52(d) and Local Rule 141 provide for sealing of documents that qualify. 12 “[T]he courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public 13 records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Nixon v. Warner 14 Communications, 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978) (footnotes omitted). While “the right to inspect and 15 copy judicial records is not absolute,” access in civil cases is properly denied for clearly 16 justifiable reasons: to protect against “‘gratif[ication of] private spite or promot[ion of] public 17 scandal,’” or to preclude court dockets from becoming “reservoirs of libelous statements,” or 18 “sources of business information that might harm a litigant’s competitive standing.” Id. at 598 19 (citations omitted). As the Ninth Circuit instructs, a “strong presumption in favor of access” to 20 the record governs in a court of law unless the case or a part of it qualifies for one of the relatively 21 few exceptions “traditionally [] kept secret,” with secrecy allowed for good reasons. Foltz v. 22 State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1134−35 (9th Cir. 2003). 23 When a party moves to seal a record, the court looks to the underlying motion and 24 determines whether it is “more than tangentially related to the merits of a case.” Ctr. for Auto 25 Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1101 (9th Cir. 2016). If the motion is more than 26 tangentially related to the merits of the case, a party seeking to seal the record must satisfy the 27 “stringent” compelling reasons standard. Id. at 1096. Applying this standard, “a court may seal 28 records only when it finds ‘a compelling reason and articulate[s] the factual basis for its ruling, 2 1 without relying on hypothesis or conjecture,’” and “then ‘conscientiously balance[s] the 2 competing interests of the public and the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret.’” 3 Id. at 1096−97 (first alteration in original) (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 4 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 2006)). 5 When a motion is unrelated or only tangentially related to the merits of the case, 6 the good cause standard, which is an “exception” to the “presumptive” compelling reasons 7 standard, applies. Id. at 1097−98. To establish good cause, a party must show “for each 8 particular document it seeks to protect . . . that specific prejudice or harm will result” absent 9 sealing. See Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1130 (citation omitted). “Broad allegations of harm, 10 unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning” will not satisfy the good cause 11 standard. Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int’l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992). 12 The Eastern District of California has adopted rules to clarify procedures for 13 parties’ compliance with the law reviewed above. Local Rule 141 provides that documents may 14 be sealed only by a written order of the court after a party makes a particularized request to seal. 15 E.D. Cal. L.R. 141(a). A mere request to seal is not enough under the local rules. Local Rule 16 141(b) expressly requires that “[t]he ‘Request to Seal Documents’ shall set forth the statutory or 17 other authority for sealing, the requested duration, the identity, by name or category, of persons to 18 be permitted access to the document, and all relevant information.” The court’s own Standing 19 Order, available on its web page, and its Pretrial Scheduling Order issued in this case, ECF No. 20 128, emphasize the requirement that a party comply with the law and the rules in making any 21 sealing request, which they should do lightly and only rarely if at all. Here, realtor’s request to 22 seal is appropriate only to the extent it allows for complete, unredacted copies of documents to be 23 placed under seal concurrently with the filing of redacted copies to preserve the record. The 24 request to redact limited information, including social security numbers, addresses, full names 25 other than relator’s and birthdates, is consistent with both Local Rules and the Federal Rules of 26 Civil Procedure, and reflects the requirements placed by both on relator. 27 28 3 1 In sum, the court finds good cause for defendant’s filing of a REDACTED copy of 2 the documents for which a placeholder has been filed at ECF No. 318-2, with an unredacted copy 3 of the same documents filed UNDER SEAL concurrently. 4 5 III. CONCLUSION Relator’s request to seal or redact is GRANTED to the extent explained above. 6 The court directs defendant to file the redacted documents within seven (7) days of this order, and 7 to concurrently provide the Clerk of Court with the corresponding unredacted documents for 8 filing under seal. This order resolves the in camera request filed as noticed by ECF No. 344; the 9 Clerk of Court is directed to file the in camera request and its supporting documents under seal to 10 11 12 preserve the record with respect to the request. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: October 15, 2020. 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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