Rhuma et al v. State of Libya

Filing 20

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Allison Claire on 5/16/14 ORDERING that plaintiffs' motion to seal 4 is denied. (Becknal, R)

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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 AHMED T. RHUMA, ET AL., 12 13 14 15 No. 2:13-cv-2286 LKK AC PS Plaintiffs, v. ORDER STATE OF LIBYA, Defendant. 16 17 Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, have filed a request to seal documents pursuant to Local 18 Rule 141. Essentially, plaintiff seeks a blanket sealing order because of the nature of various 19 documents that are anticipated to be filed in this case that may include, inter alia, date of birth, 20 proof of citizenship, and death certificate(s). 21 Local Rule 141(a) states that “[d]ocuments may be sealed only by written order of the 22 Court, upon the showing required by applicable law.” A court order is required for each sealing 23 request. “To ensure that documents are properly sealed, specific requests to seal must be made 24 even if an existing protective order, statute, or rule requires or permits the sealing of the 25 document.” E.D. Local Rule 141(a). 26 27 28 Local Rule 141(b) sets forth the procedure for seeking to file documents under seal and states in pertinent part: [T]he ‘Notice of Request to Seal Documents shall be filed 1 1 electronically. . . . The Notice shall describe generally the documents sought to be sealed, the basis for sealing, the manner in which the ‘Request to Seal Documents,’ proposed order, and the documents themselves were submitted to the Court, and whether the Request, proposed order, and the documents were served on all other parties. 2 3 4 5 Rule 141(b) further requires that “[t]he ‘Request to Seal Documents’ shall set forth the statutory 6 or other authority for sealing, the requested duration, the identity, by name or category, of persons 7 permitted access to the documents, and all other relevant information.” In light of these 8 requirements, the court finds that plaintiffs’ request that the Clerk of the Court file documents 9 under seal without a further court order is procedurally improper and does not comply with the 10 requirements of Local Rule 141. 11 The court also finds that plaintiffs’ request is grossly overbroad. Every court has 12 supervisory power over its own records and files, and may provide access to court documents at 13 its discretion. See Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Nixon v. 14 Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978)). In the Ninth Circuit, there is a strong 15 presumption in favor of access to court records. See Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 16 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003) (stipulated order without more insufficient basis to seal court 17 records). However, “access to judicial records is not absolute.” Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of 18 Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006). In determining what standard to apply to 19 requests to seal, the Ninth Circuit distinguishes between non-dispositive and dispositive motions. 20 Id. at 1180. 21 To seal documents filed with a dispositive motion, a party “must meet the high threshold 22 of showing that ‘compelling reasons’ support secrecy.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178. That is, 23 the party requesting to seal “must articulate[ ] compelling reasons supported by specific factual 24 findings . . . that outweigh . . . public interest in understanding the judicial process.” Id. at 1178- 25 79 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). “In general, ‘compelling reasons’ sufficient to 26 outweigh the public’s interest in disclosure and justify sealing court records exist when such 27 ‘court files might become a vehicle for improper purposes,’ such as the use of records to gratify 28 private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets.” Id. 2 1 at 1179 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Communs., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 589 (1978)). 2 On the other hand, a party requesting to seal a document filed with a nondispositive 3 motion needs only to demonstrate “good cause.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180. This is because 4 the public’s interest in non-dispositive materials is weaker than its interest in dispositive 5 materials. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass’n, 605 F.3d 665, 678 (9th Cir. 2010). To satisfy the 6 “good cause” standard, “the party seeking protection bears the burden of showing specific 7 prejudice or harm will result . . .” if the request to seal is denied. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd 8 v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 2002). “Broad allegations of harm, 9 unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning” are insufficient. Beckman Indus., 10 Inc. v. Int’l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Cipollone v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 11 785 F.2d 1108, 1121 (3d Cir. 1986)). 12 The court need not address the question what standard to apply to a blanket sealing 13 request because the court finds plaintiff cannot meet the “good cause” requirement, which is a 14 lower standard than the “compelling reasons” standard for dispositive motions. While the court is 15 aware of plaintiff’s privacy concerns, plaintiff has not shown good cause why all (or even the vast 16 majority) of the documents anticipated to be filed in this case should be sealed instead of simply 17 redacted on a document-by-document basis. Indeed, Local Rule 140(a) specifically requires 18 redaction of certain confidential information in publically filed documents. The parties’ 19 compliance with Local Rule 140(a) will adequately protect the privacy interests asserted in the 20 motion to seal. 21 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs’ motion to seal (ECF No. 4) is 22 denied. 23 DATED: May 16, 2014 24 25 26 27 28 3

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