Beach v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, Inc. et al

Filing 33

ORDER GRANTING 28 DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL. Signed by Judge Beth Labson Freeman on 5/1/2017. (blflc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/1/2017)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 SAN JOSE DIVISION 6 7 SUSAN BEACH, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 11 Case No. 15-cv-04737-BLF ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL v. LIBERTY LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF BOSTON, INC., [Re: ECF 28] United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. 12 13 Before the Court is Defendant’s administrative motion to file under seal the administrative 14 record of Plaintiff Susan Beach. ECF 28. The parties stipulated to the motion. ECF 28-1. For 15 the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED. 16 There is a “strong presumption in favor of access” to judicial records. Kamakana v. City & 17 Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. 18 Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003)). A party seeking to seal judicial records bears the 19 burden of overcoming this presumption by articulating “compelling reasons supported by specific 20 factual findings that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring 21 disclosure.” Id. at 1178-79. Compelling reasons for sealing court files generally exist when such 22 “‘court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes,’ such as the use of records to 23 gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade 24 secrets.” Id. (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978)). However, 25 “[t]he mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant’s embarrassment, 26 incrimination, or exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its 27 records.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. Ultimately, “[w]hat constitutes a ‘compelling reason’ is 28 ‘best left to the sound discretion of the trial court.’” Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 1 2 809 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir. 2016). “Despite this strong preference for public access, [the Ninth Circuit has] carved out an 3 exception,” id. at 1097, for judicial records attached to motions that are “tangentially related to the 4 merits of a case,” id. at 1101. Parties moving to seal such records need only make a 5 “particularized showing” under the “good cause” standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6 26(c). Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1180 (quoting Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1138). 7 In this District, parties seeking to seal judicial records must furthermore follow Civil Local 8 Rule 79-5, which requires, inter alia, that a sealing request be “narrowly tailored to seek sealing 9 only of sealable material.” Civil L.R. 79-5(b) (emphasis added). Where the submitting party seeks to file under seal a document designated confidential by another party, the burden of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 articulating compelling reasons for sealing is placed on the designating party. Id. 79-5(e). 12 The Court has reviewed Defendant’s sealing motion and the declaration of Susan Beach in 13 support thereof. According to the declaration, the entire administrative record should be sealed 14 because the administrative record is comprised of Plaintiff’s confidential medical information. 15 Beach Decl. ¶¶ 3–5, ECF 28-2. 16 The Court finds that the “compelling” standard applies, as the administrative record is 17 related to the merits of a case. Because the majority of documents in the administrative record 18 contain Plaintiff’s confidential personal information, they are appropriately sealable. E.g., Doe v. 19 UNUM Life Ins. Co. of Am., 164 F. Supp. 3d 1140, 1147 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (ordering the 20 administrative record to be filed under seal); Doe v. PricewaterhouseCoopers Health & Welfare 21 Benefit Plan, No. 13-02710-JSW, 2014 WL 2737840, at *1 n.1 (N.D. Cal. June 11, 2014) (same). 22 For the foregoing reasons, the sealing motion at ECF 28 is GRANTED. 23 24 25 26 Dated: May 1, 2017 ______________________________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 27 28 2

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