McDowell, Jr. v Homan et al

Filing 78

ORDER - Defendants motions to seal, (ECF Nos. 72 , 76 ), are GRANTED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Carla Baldwin on 2/6/2024. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 3 *** 4 TOMMIE LEE MCDOWELL, JR., 5 6 7 Plaintiff, v. 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO SEAL [ECF Nos. 72, 76] DENNIS HOMAN, et. al., 8 9 Case No. 3:22-cv-00166-CLB Defendants. Before the Court are Defendants’ motions for leave to file medical records under seal in support of the motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 72, 76.) No opposition was filed. “The courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Courthouse News Serv. v. Planet, 947 F.3d 581, 591 (9th Cir. 2020) (quoting Courthouse News Serv. v. Brown, 908 F.3d 1063, 1069 (7th Cir. 2018)). Certain documents are exceptions to this right and are generally kept secret for policy reasons, including grand jury transcripts and warrant materials in a pre-indictment investigation. Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006). If a party seeks to file a document under seal, there are two possible standards the party must address: the compelling reasons standard or the good cause standard. See 22 Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096-97 (9th Cir. 2016). The 23 choice between the two standards depends on whether the documents proposed for 24 sealing accompany a motion that is “more than tangentially related” to the merits of the 25 case. Id. at 1099. If it is more than tangentially related, the compelling reasons standard 26 applies. If not, the good cause standard applies. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1102. 27 Here, Defendants seek to file exhibits under seal in connection with the motion for 28 summary judgment, which is “more than tangentially related” to the merits of a case. 1 Therefore, the compelling reasons standard applies. 2 Under the compelling reasons standard, “a court may seal records only when it 3 finds ‘a compelling reason and articulate[s] the factual basis for its ruling, without relying 4 on hypothesis or conjecture.’” United States v. Carpenter, 923 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 5 2019) (quoting Ctr. for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1096-97) (alteration in original). Finding 6 a compelling reason is “best left to the sound discretion” of the Court. Ctr. for Auto Safety, 7 809 F.3d at 1097 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978)). 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 This Court, and others within the Ninth Circuit, have recognized that the need to protect medical privacy qualifies as a “compelling reason” for sealing records, since medical records contain sensitive and private information about a person’s health. See, e.g., Spahr v. Med. Dir. Ely State Prison, No. 3:19-CV-0267-MMD-CLB, 2020 WL 137459, at *2 (D. Nev. Jan. 10, 2020); Sapp v. Ada Cnty. Med. Dep’t, No. 1:15-CV-00594-BLW, 2018 WL 3613978, at *6 (D. Idaho July 27, 2018); Karpenski v. Am. Gen. Life Companies, LLC, No. 2:12-CV-01569RSM, 2013 WL 5588312, at *1 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 9, 2013). While certain aspects of a party’s medical condition may be at issue in certain types of actions, that does not mean that all medical records filed in connection with a motion (which often contain unrelated medical information) must be broadcast to the public. In other words, the party’s interest in keeping sensitive health information confidential outweighs the public’s need for direct access to the medical records. 21 Here, the referenced exhibit contains Plaintiff’s sensitive health information, 22 medical history, and treatment records. Balancing the need for the public’s access to 23 information regarding Plaintiff’s medical history, treatment, and condition against the need 24 to maintain the confidentiality of these medical records weighs in favor of sealing these 25 exhibits. Therefore, Defendants’ motions to seal, (ECF Nos. 72, 76), are GRANTED. 26 DATED: February 6, 2024. 27 28 ____________________________________ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 2

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