Williams & Cochrane, LLP v. Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation et al

Filing 37

ORDER Granting 34 Motion to File Documents Under Seal. Signed by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel on 2/13/2018. (mxn)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 WILLIAMS & COCHRANE, LLP, Case No.: 3:17-cv-01436-GPC-MDD Plaintiff, 12 13 v. 14 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO FILE DOCUMENTS UNDER SEAL QUECHAN TRIBE OF THE FORT YUMA INDIAN RESERVATION, a federally-recognized Indian Tribe; ROBERT ROSETTE; ROSETTE & ASSOCIATES, PC; ROSETTLE, LLP; RICHARD ARMSTRONG; KEENY ESCALANTI, SR.; MARK WILLIAM WHITE, II, also known as WILLIE WHITE; and DOES 1 THROUGH 10, 15 16 17 18 19 20 [ECF No. 34] Defendants. 21 22 Before the Court is a motion to file documents under seal filed by Defendants 23 Rosette, Rosette & Associates PC, Rosette LLP, and Armstrong (the “Rosette 24 Defendants”). (ECF No. 34.) For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS the 25 motion and ACCEPTS the memoranda as filed at ECF No. 31-1 and 32-1. 26 I. 27 Plaintiff first filed this action on July 16, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) The case arises out Background 28 1 3:17-cv-01436-GPC-MDD 1 of an attorney-client fee agreement that Plaintiff entered into with Defendant Quechan 2 Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation (“the Tribe”). (ECF No. 3 at 2.) Plaintiff’s 3 claims arise from the Tribe allegedly terminating Plaintiff as the Tribe’s counsel three 4 days prior to the date on which the Tribe was set to sign a compact with the State of 5 California. (Id.) Plaintiff moved to file the case and the complaint under seal. (ECF No. 6 2.) The Court denied the motion on August 17, 2017, explaining that sealing the case and 7 or the entire complaint was unwarranted. (ECF No. 3.) While the Court agreed that it 8 was appropriate to seal privileged attorney-client information, attorney work-product, and 9 confidential information about the Tribe’s negotiations with the State of California, it was 10 not persuaded that the existence of such information within the complaint warranted 11 sealing the entire complaint, let alone the case. (Id. at 4.) The Court explained that 12 “Plaintiff has offered no compelling reason why every paragraph in its 91-page complaint 13 and why each of its thirty-nine exhibits must be filed under seal.” (Id.) The Court 14 explained, however, that “to the extent that Plaintiff wishes to protect the confidential and 15 privileged information contained within the complaint, it must redact those portions of 16 the complaint (and those portions of the exhibits).” (Id.) 17 On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff refiled its complaint with several redactions, as 18 well as an accompanying motion to seal. (ECF Nos. 5, 7.) The Court found the 19 redactions appropriate because they were limited to confidential information arising from 20 confidential attorney-client communications, attorney work-product, and confidential 21 negotiations between the Tribe and the State of California. The Court therefore granted 22 the motion to file a redacted complaint. (ECF No. 9.) 23 The Rosette Defendants have filed motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims and to 24 strike. (ECF Nos. 31, 32.) The memoranda in support of the motions are redacted. (ECF 25 Nos. 31-1, 32-1.) The Rosette Defendants now seek permission to file the redacted 26 memoranda. (ECF No. 34.) 27 II. 28 Under common law and the First Amendment, there is a presumptive right of Legal Standard 2 3:17-cv-01436-GPC-MDD 1 public access to court records. See Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 2 (1978). “Unless a particular court record is one traditionally kept secret, a strong 3 presumption in favor of access is the starting point.” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of 4 Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178–80 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. 5 Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003)). A party seeking to seal a judicial record 6 must articulate justifications that outweigh the historical right of access and the public 7 policies favoring disclosure. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178–79. 8 Parties seeking to seal documents in a dispositive motion must meet the high 9 threshold requiring “compelling reasons” with specific factual findings to support a 10 sealing. Id. at 1178–80. The “compelling reasons” test requires showing more than just 11 “good cause.” Id. Documents filed under seal will be limited to only those documents, 12 or portions thereof, necessary to protect such sensitive information. 13 III. 14 In seeking to redact its complaint, Plaintiff asserted that its redactions were 15 necessary because the information it seeks to protect arises from confidential attorney- 16 client communications, attorney work-product, and confidential negotiations between the 17 Tribe and the State of California. The Court agreed with Plaintiff that protection against 18 disclosure of these three types of information is a compelling reason that rebuts the 19 presumption of public access. (See ECF No. 9 at 3–4.) 20 Discussion Here, the Rosette Defendants propose to redact from their memoranda any 21 references to information in the operative complaint that Plaintiff has redacted. (See, e.g., 22 ECF No. 31-1 at 4, 9, 10.) Because the Court has already found that protection of the 23 confidential information redacted in the operative complaint serves as a compelling 24 reason to rebut the presumption of public access, the Court concludes that redaction of 25 the same information from the Rosette Defendants’ memoranda is appropriate. 26 IV. 27 The Court GRANTS the Rosette Defendants’ motion to seal and ACCEPTS the 28 Conclusion redacted versions of the memoranda in support of its motions to dismiss and strike. The 3 3:17-cv-01436-GPC-MDD 1 Clerk of Court is respectfully requested to file, under seal, the lodged unredacted copies 2 of the Rosette Defendants’ memoranda. (ECF Nos. 35, 35-1.) 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. 4 5 Dated: February 13, 2018 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 3:17-cv-01436-GPC-MDD

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