Nall v. Adamson

Filing 57

ORDER granting ECF No. 46 Motion to Seal. ORDER granting in part and denying in part ECF No. 50 Motion to Unseal. Within seven (7) days of the issuance of this order (6/11/2021), Defendants are directed to provide directly to Plaintiff, copies of the exhibits filed under seal at ECF No. 46 , at the NDOC's expense. Signed by Magistrate Judge Carla Baldwin on 6/4/2021. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - SC)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 3 TYRONE T.H. NALL, 4 5 6 7 Plaintiff, Case No. 3:19-CV-00054-MMD-CLB ORDER v. KIM ADAMSON, et al., Defendants. 8 9 Before the court is Defendants’ motion for leave to file medical records under seal 10 in support of Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 46), and Plaintiff’s 11 motion to unseal medical records. (ECF No. 50.) Defendants responded to the motion to 12 unseal, (ECF No. 53), and Plaintiff replied (ECF No. 54). For the reasons discussed 13 below, the court grants Defendants’ motion to seal (ECF No. 46), and grants, in part, and 14 denies, in part, Plaintiff’s motion to unseal. (ECF No. 50.) 15 “The courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public 16 records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Courthouse News 17 Serv. v. Planet, 947 F.3d 581, 591 (9th Cir. 2020) (quoting Courthouse News Serv. v. 18 Brown, 908 F.3d 1063, 1069 (7th Cir. 2018)). Certain documents are exceptions to this 19 right and are generally kept secret for policy reasons, including grand jury transcripts and 20 warrant materials in a pre-indictment investigation. United States v. Bus. of Custer 21 Battlefield Museum & Store Located at Interstate 90, Exit 514, S. of Billings, Mont., 658 22 F.3d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 23 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006)). 24 If a party seeks to file a document under seal, there are two possible standards the 25 party must address: the compelling reasons standard or the good cause standard. See 26 Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096-97 (9th Cir. 2016). The 27 choice between the two standards depends on whether the documents proposed for 28 sealing accompany a motion that is “more than tangentially related” to the merits of the 1 case. Id. at 1099. If it is more than tangentially related, the compelling reasons standard 2 applies. If not, the good cause standard applies. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1102. 3 Here, Defendants seek to file exhibits under seal in connection with their motion 4 for summary judgment (ECF No. 45), which are “more than tangentially related” to the 5 merits of a case. Therefore, the compelling reasons standard applies. 6 Under the compelling reasons standard, “a court may seal records only when it 7 finds ‘a compelling reason and articulate[s] the factual basis for its ruling, without relying 8 on hypothesis or conjecture.’” United States v. Carpenter, 923 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 9 2019) (quoting Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1096-97) (alteration in original). Finding 10 a compelling reason is “best left to the sound discretion” of the court. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 11 809 F.3d at 1097 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978)). 12 This court, and others within the Ninth Circuit, have recognized that the need to 13 protect medical privacy qualifies as a “compelling reason” for sealing records, since 14 medical records contain sensitive and private information about a person’s health. See, 15 e.g., Spahr v. Med. Dir. Ely State Prison, No. 3:19-CV-0267-MMD-CLB, 2020 WL 137459, 16 at *2 (D. Nev. Jan. 10, 2020); Sapp v. Ada Cnty. Med. Dep’t, No. 1:15-CV-00594-BLW, 17 2018 WL 3613978, at *6 (D. Idaho July 27, 2018); Karpenski v. Am. Gen. Life Companies, 18 LLC, No. 2:12-CV-01569RSM, 2013 WL 5588312, at *1 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 9, 2013). While 19 a plaintiff discloses aspects of his medical condition at issue when he files an action 20 alleging deliberate indifference to a serious medical need under the Eighth Amendment, 21 that does not mean that all his medical records filed in connection with a motion (which 22 often contain unrelated medical information) must be broadcast to the public. In other 23 words, the plaintiff’s interest in keeping his sensitive health information confidential 24 outweighs the public’s need for direct access to the medical records. 25 Here, the referenced exhibits contain Plaintiff’s sensitive health information, 26 medical history, and treatment records. Balancing the need for the public’s access to 27 information regarding Plaintiff’s medical history, treatment, and condition against the need 28 to maintain the confidentiality of Plaintiff’s medical records weighs in favor of sealing these -2- 1 exhibits. Therefore, Defendants’ motion to seal (ECF No. 46) is GRANTED. 2 That being said, Plaintiff’s motion to unseal argues the records should not be 3 sealed because he needs copies of those records so he can meaningfully respond to 4 Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 50.) As this court has previously 5 ruled, inmates engaged in litigation directly involving medical records should have the 6 ability to possess relevant copies of the records. As such, while the court finds that 7 Plaintiff’s medical records should be sealed on the docket, the court grants Plaintiff’s 8 motion insofar as it requests that Plaintiff be given copies of the medical records filed in 9 support of the motion for summary judgment to be maintained in his cell. Accordingly, 10 Plaintiff’s motion to unseal (ECF No. 50) is GRANTED, IN PART, AND DENIED, IN 11 PART. Within seven (7) days of the issuance of this order, Defendants are directed to 12 provide directly to Plaintiff, copies of the exhibits filed under seal at ECF No. 46, at the 13 NDOC’s expense. 14 IT IS SO ORDERED. 15 June 4, 2021 DATED: ________________ 16 17 ____________________________________ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -3-

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