Howell v. Tran et al

Filing 36

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO FILE EXHIBIT UNDER SEAL 29 . (Illston, Susan) (Filed on 5/1/2017) (Additional attachment(s) added on 5/1/2017: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (tfS, COURT STAFF).

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 KAREEM J. HOWELL, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 15-cv-05377-SI ORDER DENYING MOTION TO FILE EXHIBIT UNDER SEAL v. C. TRAN, et al., Re: Dkt. No. 29 Defendants. 12 13 This pro se prisoner's civil rights action includes a claim about the use of force on plaintiff 14 when he was removed from his cell at the Santa Clara County Jail. Defendants have moved for 15 summary judgment. In connection with that motion, Defendants have filed a motion to file an 16 exhibit under seal. 17 Defendants wish to have filed under seal Exhibit 1 to the McHugh Declaration. Exhibit 1 18 is a DVD copy of a 5-minute, 30-second video-recording of plaintiff’s removal from his cell. 19 Defendants urge that Exhibit 1 should be sealed because it “contains confidential and highly 20 sensitive footage of the County of Santa Clara Main Jail facility related to the September 1, 2015 21 incident involving the removal and transfer of Plaintiff from his jail cell.” Docket No. 29 at 2. 22 Defendants cite Castillon v. Corrections Corp. of America, 2015 WL 3948459 (D. Idaho June 29, 23 2015), as support for the proposition that “[v]ideo footage of security incidents at prisons and jails 24 justify sealing the video” because of security concerns related to the publication of such a video. 25 Docket No. 29 at 2. 26 The court may order a document filed under seal “upon a request that establishes that the 27 document, or portions thereof, are privileged, protectable as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to 28 protection under the law (hereinafter referred to as ‘sealable’). The request must be narrowly 1 tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material.” N. D. Cal. Local Rule 79-5(b). There is a 2 strong presumption favoring the public’s right of access to court records which should be 3 overridden only for a compelling reason. Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1433-34 (9th Cir. 4 1995). “Counseling against such access would be the likelihood of an improper use, ‘including 5 publication of scandalous, libelous, pornographic, or trade secret materials; infringement of fair 6 trial rights of the defendants or third persons; and residual privacy rights.’” Valley Broadcasting 7 Co. v. United States District Court, 798 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). In 8 prisoner cases, genuine concerns that the release of the document will endanger staff or inmates 9 can support an order sealing a document. Upon due consideration of the motion to seal Exhibit 1, the court disagrees with 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 defendants’ assessment of the risk of danger that would flow from making Exhibit 1 public. 12 Critically, Exhibit 1 contains a video taken with a handheld video-recorder carried by a member of 13 the correctional staff during plaintiff’s removal from his cell. This makes the present situation 14 distinguishable from the Castillon case cited by defendants, where the exhibit in question 15 contained footage “taken from a surveillance camera at [the prison], with depictions of . . . angles 16 and span of the cameras in [the pod],” and the cameras were still in use at their same locations. 17 Castillon, 2015 WL 3948459 at *2-3. A curious person watching the video in Castillon could 18 figure out what area could not be seen with the camera, and use that information for nefarious 19 purposes, such as attacking someone in an area known not to be visible to the camera. There is no 20 similar potential with Exhibit 1 because the footage is not from a camera in a fixed location. A 21 curious person watching Exhibit 1 could not determine how to avoid being captured on video by a 22 correctional official carrying a camera. Exhibit 1 also does not capture any image of a control 23 panel or any other security device at the jail. In short, Exhibit 1 does not provide any sensitive 24 information about the positioning and viewing capabilities of any surveillance system. For this 25 reason, the court finds that defendants have not overcome the presumption favoring public access 26 to court records. Accordingly, the application to file Exhibit 1 under seal is DENIED. (Docket 27 No. 29.) 28 2 1 Having decided that the Exhibit 1 will not be filed under seal, there remains the issue of 2 what to do with it. Respondent may (a) retrieve Exhibit 1 within seven days of the date of this 3 order so that it will not become part of the public record, or (b) file a notice that Exhibit 1 may be 4 filed in the public record. See generally Local Rule 79-5(f). Unless the exhibit is made part of the 5 public record, the court will not consider it for purposes of ruling on defendants’ motion for 6 summary judgment. 7 8 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 1, 2017 ______________________________________ SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 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?