M.M. et al v. Lafayette School District et al

Filing 176

Order by Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler denying without prejudice the plaintiffs' administrative motion to file under seal 175 . (lblc1S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/3/2017)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 San Francisco Division United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 M.M., et al., Case No. 10-cv-04223-SI (LB) Plaintiffs, 13 v. 14 15 LAFAYETTE SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants. 16 ORDER DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO SEAL Re: ECF No. 175 17 The plaintiffs filed an administrative motion to file under seal several documents concerning 18 approval of minor C.M.’s settlement.1 Specifically, they seek to remove from the court’s docket 19 and file under seal (1) their attorney’s verified petition for approval of the settlement, ECF No. 20 168-1; (2) C.M.’s parents’ declaration in support of that petition, ECF No. 168-2; (3) their 21 proposed order filed with the petition, ECF No. 170; and (4) the court’s order approving the 22 settlement, ECF No. 171.2 At minimum, they say, if the court grants the motion but determines 23 that its order approving the settlement must be kept public, “the identity of the minor’s school” at 24 page 3 of that order and the settlement amounts should be redacted.3 The plaintiffs assert that these 25 26 1 27 Motion to Seal – ECF No. 175. 2 Id. at 4. 28 3 Id. ORDER — No. 10-cv-04223-SI 1 documents “must be sealed to protect the minor’s identity because identification of the minor is 2 reasonably certain.”4 A request to file under seal “must be narrowly tailored to seek sealing only of sealable 3 4 material,” and a party must file a declaration explaining why the target material is sealable. Civil 5 L.R. 79-5(b), (d)(1)(A). Explanations need not be lengthy but they must describe why the material 6 is sealable. See generally id.; Kamakana v. City and Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th 7 Cir. 2006). For material attached to non-dispositive motions, a party must make a “particularized 8 showing” that “good cause” exists to seal the material in question. Id. Where, as here, the material 9 is attached to a dispositive motion, the party “must meet the high threshold of showing that 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 ‘compelling reasons’ support [sealing].” Id.; see M.P. ex. rel. Provins v. Lowe’s Cos., Inc., No. 2:11-cv-01985-GEB-CKD, 2012 WL 1574801, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 3, 2012) (“Because approval of the Application [for Approval of Minor’s Settlement] is dispositive, the compelling reasons standard applies to Defendant’s motion to seal.”). If a party satisfies its burden and overcomes the strong presumption favoring public access to 14 15 16 17 18 judicial records, it must also comply with the court’s procedural rules. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178; Civil L.R. 79-5. These rules require, among other things, that parties file both a redacted version of the target documents (i.e., the version that will appear in the public record) and an unredacted version that “indicate[s], by highlighting or other clear method, the portions of the document that have been omitted from the redacted version . . . .” Civil L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(D). 19 Here, the plaintiffs seek to file under seal, in their entirety, four documents because 20 21 22 23 24 identification of C.M. is reasonably certain.5 Identification is reasonably certain, they say, “given identification of the minor and his parents’ initials in relation to the Lafayette School District and the parents’ active involvement in the small community of parents and educators in the school district’s community.”6 They assert such identification “is not a proper topic for public access,” and that “[l]ittle, if any, interest in public information access . . . weighs against sealing the subject 25 26 4 27 5 Id. at 2. 28 6 Id. Id. at 2 (citing J.W. v. Dist. of Columbia, No. 16-0573 (RC), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117538, at *9– *10 (D.D.C. Aug. 31, 2016)). ORDER — No. 10-cv-04223-SI 2 1 documents.”7 They argue that information regarding the school district’s expenditures (e.g. in 2 litigating and settling the case) is available in other public records.8 The court recognizes the important interest in protecting the minor’s identity. But the plaintiffs 3 4 have not shown compelling reasons to justify sealing the four documents in their entirety. First, the information that will supposedly lead to the minor’s identification — the minor and 5 6 parents’ initials “in relation to the Lafayette School District” — is already in the public record.9 7 The inclusion of that information here cannot be expected to identify the child any more than the 8 other filings in the case. Second, if there is new, not-before-disclosed information that could identify C.M., the 9 plaintiffs have the burden of specifically identifying that information for sealing (i.e. by 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 redaction). This may, for example, include C.M.’s new school.10 But the inclusion of such limited 12 facts does not justify sealing the documents in their entirety — a sealing request must be 13 “narrowly tailored.” Thus, if the plaintiffs wish to seal specific information that is (1) not already in the public 14 15 record and (2) could identify C.M., they must re-file their motion. In it, they must comply with 16 Local Rule 79-5 and must include redacted versions of the documents and unredacted versions that 17 indicate, by highlighting, the “the portions of the document that have been omitted from the 18 redacted version.” Civil L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(C)–(D). And if they wish to keep the settlement value 19 under seal — a fact that apparently has no bearing on C.M.’s identity — they must provide a 20 compelling reason for doing so. (They should also consider that, as they point out in their motion, 21 this information “can be determined from other public records that are available.”11) 22 23 24 7 Id. at 4. 8 Id. 9 25 See, e.g., Second Amended Compl. – ECF No. 29, ¶¶ 5–9. 26 27 10 See Motion to Seal at 4 (asking the court to, at minimum, seal the name of the school). 28 11 Id. at 4. ORDER — No. 10-cv-04223-SI 3

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?