Raig Chaquico v. David Freiberg et al

Filing 20

ORDER re 16 Administrative Motion to File Under Seal. Signed by Judge Maria-Elena James on 8/4/2017. (mejlc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/4/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 CRAIG CHAQUICO, 7 Case No. 17-cv-02423-MEJ Plaintiff, 8 ORDER RE: ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL v. 9 DAVID FREIBERG, et al., 10 Re: Dkt. No. 16 Defendants. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 INTRODUCTION 13 Plaintiff Craig Chaquico moves to file under seal a 1993 Settlement Agreement (the “1993 14 15 Agreement”), which he submitted in connection with his Opposition to Defendants‟1 Motion to 16 Dismiss. Mot., Dkt. No. 16; Dkt. No. 16-4, Ex. A (1993 Agreement). Having considered 17 Plaintiff‟s argument and the relevant legal authority, the Court issues the following Order. LEGAL STANDARD 18 There is a “strong presumption in favor of access” by the public to judicial records and 19 20 documents accompanying dispositive motions. Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 21 1172, 1178-79 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 22 (9th Cir. 2003)). To seal judicial records relating to motions that are “more than tangentially 23 related to the merits of a case,” Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1098 24 (9th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. FCA U.S. LLC v. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 137 S. Ct. 38 (2016), a 25 party must “articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings,” Kamakana, 447 26 F.3d at 1178 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Indeed, such showing is required 27 1 28 Defendants are David Freiberg, Donny Baldwin, Chris Smith, Jude Gold, and Catherine Richardson. 1 even where “the [] motion, or its attachments, were previously filed under seal or protective 2 order.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. 3 The strong presumption of public access to judicial documents applies to such motions 4 because the resolution of a dispute on the merits is at the heart of the interest in ensuring that the 5 public understands the judicial process. Id. The presumption does not apply in the same way to 6 motions that are “not related, or only tangentially related, to the merits of a case.” Center for Auto 7 Safety, 809 F.3d at 1099. With such motions, “the usual presumption of the public‟s right of 8 access is rebutted.” Id. at 1179 (citing Phillips v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1213 (9th 9 Cir. 2002). A party seeking to seal documents attached to such motions nevertheless must meet the lower “good cause” standard under Rule 26(c). Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass’n, 605 F.3d 665, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 678 (9th Cir. 2010). This requires the party to make a “particularized showing” that “specific 12 prejudice or harm” will result if the information is disclosed. Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1211. “Broad 13 allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy 14 the Rule 26(c) test.” In re Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland in Or., 661 F.3d 417, 424 (9th 15 Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and edits omitted). DISCUSSION 16 17 Plaintiff applies the good cause standard to the Settlement Agreement. Mot. at 1; Swift 18 Decl. ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 16-1. As noted, Plaintiff submits the Settlement Agreement in connection with 19 his Opposition to Defendants‟ Motion to Dismiss. “Motions to dismiss are typically treated as 20 dispositive motions and are more than tangentially related to the underlying cause of action.” 21 Garrison v. Oracle Corp., 2016 WL 7042988, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2016). Because the 22 Motion to Seal relates to a Motion to Dismiss, the Court applies the compelling reasons standard 23 to Plaintiff‟s Motion to Seal. See Space Data Corp. v. X, 2017 WL 2118299, at *2 (N.D. Cal. 24 May 16, 2017) (applying compelling reasons standard to sealing motion relating to motion to 25 dismiss). 26 Trial courts have the authority to grant protective orders to protect confidential settlement 27 agreements. See Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1212 (noting that “courts have granted protective orders to 28 protect confidential settlement agreements.”). But to do so, a court must “identify and discuss the 2 1 factors it considered in its „good cause‟ examination[,]” considering whether particularized harm 2 will result from disclosure of information to the public, and then balancing the public and private 3 interests to decide whether a protective order is necessary. Id. at 1211–12. 4 Counsel for Plaintiff David Swift declares “[g]ood cause exists to file the 1993 Settlement Agreement . . . under seal because the 1993 Agreement contains a confidentiality provision.” 6 Swift Decl. ¶ 2 (citing 1993 Agreement ¶ 4). “[A] settlement agreement cannot be sealed simply 7 because the parties agreed to keep its terms confidential[.]” UCP Int’l Co. Ltd. v. Balsam Brands 8 Inc., 2017 WL 1861851, at *5 (N.D. Cal. May 9, 2017); see Louisiana Pac. Corp. v. Money Mkt. 1 9 Institutional Inv. Dealer, 2013 WL 636028, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2013) (“The existence of a 10 confidentiality provision, without more, does not constitute good cause, „let alone a compelling 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 5 reason,‟ to seal.” (quoting Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1136)); Select Portfolio Servicing v. Valentino, 2013 12 WL 1800039, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 29, 2013) (denying motion to seal settlement agreement where 13 the “motion . . . is supported by a sole declaration, which only asserts that the material should be 14 sealed because the parties agreed among themselves to make the settlement agreement 15 confidential. This is insufficient. . . . [Movants] have not even made a showing that some specific 16 harm or prejudice will result from its publication. . . . That they agreed among themselves to keep 17 the settlement details private, without more, is no reason to shield the information from other non- 18 settling parties to the case or the public at large.”); Civ. L.R. 79-5(d) (“Reference to a stipulation 19 or protective order that allows a party to designate certain documents as confidential is not 20 sufficient to establish that a document, or portions thereof, are sealable.”). Plaintiff fails to show 21 any specific harm or prejudice will result if the 1993 Agreement is filed publicly. Plaintiff‟s 22 generalized claim of harm or prejudice is brought into question by the fact Plaintiff himself quotes 23 portions of the 1993 Agreement in his publicly-filed Opposition. See Opp‟n at 9, Dkt. No. 17. 24 Plaintiff does not request to redact this information in the Opposition. See Mot. Given that parts 25 of the 1993 Agreement are already in the public docket, the Court sees no reason to seal this 26 document in its entirety now. 27 28 3 1 Nonetheless, within four days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff may file an additional 2 declaration to conform with Civil Local Rule 79-5. If Plaintiff fails to do so, his Motion will be 3 denied. Plaintiff‟s declaration may not exceed five pages. 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 6 7 8 Dated: August 4, 2017 ______________________________________ MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge 9 10 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 4

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