Gunter v. United Federal Credit Union et al

Filing 93

ORDER granting 65 Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Documents Under Seal. Signed by Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb on 8/23/2017. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - HJ)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 TONYA GUNTER, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, ) ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) ) UNITED FEDERAL CREDIT UNION, DOES 105 inclusive and ROE CORPORATIONS ) 6-10 inclusive, ) ) Defendants. ) ______________________________________) 3:15-cv-00483-MMD-WGC ORDER Re: ECF No. 65 15 Before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Documents Records Under Seal. 16 (ECF No. 65.) The motion is unopposed. 17 In this motion, Plaintiff seeks leave to file under seal an unredacted version of her motion for 18 class certification and appointment of class counsel, as well as an unredacted copy of Defendant’s 19 responses to interrogatories 10 and 15, attached as Exhibit 10 to the declaration of Richard D. McCune 20 filed in support of Plaintiff’s motion for class certification and appointment of class counsel. 21 “Historically, courts have recognized a general right to inspect and copy public records and 22 documents, including judicial records and documents.” See Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 23 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “‘Throughout our 24 history, the open courtroom has been a fundamental feature of the American judicial system. Basic 25 principles have emerged to guide judicial discretion respecting public access to judicial proceedings. 26 These principles apply as well to the determination of whether to permit access to information contained 27 in court documents because court records often provide important, sometimes the only, bases or 28 explanations for a court’s decision.’” Oliner v. Kontrabecki, 745 F.3d 1024, 1025 (9th Cir. 2014) 1 (quoting Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710 F.2d 1165, 1177 (6th Cir. 1983)). 2 Documents that have been traditionally kept secret, including grand jury transcripts and warrant 3 materials in a pre-indictment investigation, come within an exception to the general right of public 4 access. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178. Otherwise, “a strong presumption in favor of access is the 5 starting point.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “The presumption of access is ‘based 6 on the need for federal courts, although independent—indeed, particularly because they are 7 independent—to have a measure of accountability and for the public to have confidence in the 8 administration of justice.’” Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th 9 Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 38 (Oct. 3, 2016) (quoting United States v. Amodeo (Amodeo II), 71 10 F.3d 1044, 1048 (2nd Cir. 1995); Valley Broad Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court-D. Nev., 798 F.2d 1289, 1294 11 (9th Cir. 1986)). 12 There are two possible standards a party must address when it seeks to file a document under 13 seal: the compelling reasons standard or the good cause standard. See Center for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d 14 at 1096-97. Under the compelling reasons standard, “a court may seal records only when it finds ‘a 15 compelling reason and articulate[s] the factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis or 16 conjecture.” Id. (quoting Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179). “The court must then ‘conscientiously balance[ 17 ] the competing interests of the public and the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret.” 18 Id. “What constitutes a ‘compelling reason’ is ‘best left to the sound discretion of the trial court.’” Id. 19 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978)). “Examples include when a court 20 record might be used to ‘gratify private spite or promote public scandal,’ to circulate ‘libelous’ 21 statements, or ‘as sources of business information that might harm a litigant’s competitive standing.’” 22 Id. (quoting Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598-99). 23 Center for Auto Safety described the good cause standard, on the other hand, as the exception to 24 public access that had been applied to “sealed materials attached to a discovery motion unrelated to the 25 merits of a case.” Id. (citing Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1213- 26 14 (9th Cir. 2002)). “The ‘good cause language comes from Rule 26(c)(1), which governs the issuance 27 of protective orders in the discovery process: ‘The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect 28 a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Id. (citing 2 1 Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)). 2 The Ninth Circuit has clarified that the key in determining which standard to apply in assessing 3 a motion for leave to file a document under seal is whether the documents proposed for sealing 4 accompany a motion that is “more than tangentially related to the merits of a case.” Center for Auto 5 Safety, 809 F.3d at 1101. If that is the case, the compelling reasons standard is applied. If not, the good 6 cause standard is applied. 7 Here, Plaintiff seeks to file under seal unredacted versions of her motion for class certification 8 and appointment of class counsel as well as interrogatory responses filed in support of that motion. 9 Plaintiff argues that the documents should be filed under seal because they are subject to the stipulated 10 protective order signed by the court which limits disclosure of information provided during discovery 11 to Plaintiff’s counsel. The subject discovery responses were deemed confidential pursuant to the 12 protective order, and portions of the motion for class certification and appointment of class counsel cite 13 to documents deemed confidential. 14 Since the motion seeks to file under seal discovery responses, and portions of a motion for class 15 certification that reference documents deemed confidential pursuant to a stipulated protective order and 16 is not more than tangentially related to the merits, the good cause standard appears to apply. In this 17 action, Plaintiff challenges Defendant’s policies and practices regarding the assessment of overdraft fees. 18 According to Plaintiff, the documents reference Defendant’s proprietary interest in its mechanisms for 19 handling its customers’ accounts, its internal finances and aggregate customer information. 20 Rule 26 allows the court to protect “trade secret[s] or other confidential research, development, 21 or commercial information[.]” As such, the court finds that good cause exists for sealing these 22 documents, and Plaintiff’s motion (ECF No.65) is GRANTED. 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 DATED: August 23, 2017. 25 ____________________________________ WILLIAM G. COBB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 26 27 28 3

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