Sapp v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

Filing 26

ORDER GRANTING 24 MOTION TO SEAL. Signed by Judge Beth Labson Freeman on 7/31/2017. (blflc4, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/31/2017)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 SAN JOSE DIVISION 6 7 SHAMONT L. SAPP, Plaintiff, 8 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO SEAL v. 9 10 Case No. 17-cv-01698-BLF 12 Before the Court is Defendant’s motion to file under seal certain exhibits in connection 13 14 with its motion to compel arbitration. ECF 24. For the reasons discussed below, the Court 15 GRANTS the motion. 16 17 I. LEGAL STANDARD “Historically, courts have recognized a ‘general right to inspect and copy public records 18 and documents, including judicial records and documents.’” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of 19 Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 20 U.S. 589, 597 & n. 7 (1978)). Accordingly, when considering a sealing request, “a ‘strong 21 presumption in favor of access’ is the starting point.” Id. (quoting Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. 22 Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003)). Parties seeking to seal judicial records relating to 23 motions that are “more than tangentially related to the underlying cause of action” bear the burden 24 of overcoming the presumption with “compelling reasons” that outweigh the general history of 25 access and the public policies favoring disclosure. Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., 809 F.3d 26 1092, 1099 (9th Cir. 2016); Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178–79. 27 However, “while protecting the public’s interest in access to the courts, we must remain 28 mindful of the parties’ right to access those same courts upon terms which will not unduly harm 1 their competitive interest.” Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., 727 F.3d 1214, 1228–29 (Fed. 2 Cir. 2013). Records attached to motions that are “not related, or only tangentially related, to the 3 merits of a case” therefore are not subject to the strong presumption of access. Ctr. for Auto 4 Safety, 809 F.3d at 1099; see also Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (“[T]he public has less of a need 5 for access to court records attached only to non-dispositive motions because those documents are 6 often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action.”). Parties moving 7 to seal the documents attached to such motions must meet the lower “good cause” standard of 8 Rule 26(c). Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (internal quotations and citations omitted). This 9 standard requires a “particularized showing,” id., that “specific prejudice or harm will result” if the information is disclosed. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 1210–11 (9th Cir. 2002); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). “Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated 12 by specific examples of articulated reasoning” will not suffice. Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int’l Ins. 13 Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992). A protective order sealing the documents during 14 discovery may reflect the court’s previous determination that good cause exists to keep the 15 documents sealed, see Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179–80, but a blanket protective order that allows 16 the parties to designate confidential documents does not provide sufficient judicial scrutiny to 17 determine whether each particular document should remain sealed. See Civ. L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(A) 18 (“Reference to a stipulation or protective order that allows a party to designate certain documents 19 as confidential is not sufficient to establish that a document, or portions thereof, are sealable.”). 20 In addition to making particularized showings of good cause, parties moving to seal 21 documents must comply with the procedures established by Civ. L.R. 79-5. Pursuant to Civ. L.R. 22 79-5(b), a sealing order is appropriate only upon a request that establishes the document is 23 “sealable,” or “privileged or protectable as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to protection under 24 the law.” “The request must be narrowly tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material, and 25 must conform with Civil L.R. 79-5(d).” Civ. L.R. 79-5(b). In part, Civ. L.R. 79-5(d) requires the 26 submitting party to attach a “proposed order that is narrowly tailored to seal only the sealable 27 material” which “lists in table format each document or portion thereof that is sought to be 28 sealed,” Civ. L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(b), and an “unredacted version of the document” that indicates “by 2 1 highlighting or other clear method, the portions of the document that have been omitted from the 2 redacted version.” Civ. L.R. 79-5(d)(1)(d). “Within 4 days of the filing of the Administrative 3 Motion to File Under Seal, the Designating Party must file a declaration as required by subsection 4 79-5(d)(1)(A) establishing that all of the designated material is sealable.” Civ. L.R. 79-5(e)(1). 5 II. DISCUSSION 6 The Ninth Circuit has not provided guidance on distinguishing dispositive from non- 7 dispositive motions, in the sealing context. In re Nat’l Sec. Agency Telecomm. Records Litig., No. 8 MDL-06-1791-VRW, 2007 WL 549854, at *3 (N.D.Cal. Feb. 20, 2007) (noting an “absence of 9 explicit guidance on this issue”). Even when courts look “to the underlying rationale for distinguishing between dispositive and non-dispositive motions,” id., they differ on whether a 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 motion to compel arbitration is a dispositive or nondispositive motion for sealing purposes. See 12 Martin v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 12-06030-SI, 2013 WL 5441973, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 13 2013) (comparing cases). 14 The Court need not resolve this disagreement because Defendant has made a showing for 15 the compelling reasons standard, assuming the higher standard for dispositive motions. The 16 documents sought to be sealed contain confidential information relating to Plaintiff’s personal 17 bank accounts, as well as other sensitive personal information. See Har Decl. ¶¶ 3-5, ECF 24-1. 18 Accordingly, the Court finds this to meet the compelling standard for sealing Exhibits 2, 3-B, 4, 19 and 5 to the Kotzsman Declaration in support of Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. See, 20 e.g., Martin, 2013 WL 5441973, at *3 (granting stipulation to file under seal references to 21 plaintiff’s full bank account number pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2). 22 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 25 26 27 Dated: July 31, 2017 ______________________________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 28 3

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