Yazzie et al v. Government Employees Insurance Company, et al
ORDER by Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing granting in part and denying in part 108 Motion to Seal Document. (ccp)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
LISA YAZZIE and
INSURANCE COMPANY, DARCELL
ELMORE, and MICHAL ELLIS,
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO SEAL (Doc. 108)
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion to Seal (Doc. 108), in
which plaintiffs ask the Court to seal their Supplemental Brief in Support of Their Motion to
Compel (Doc. 107). Defendants did not file a response to the Motion to Seal. Defendant
GEICO did, however, file a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Supplemental Brief in Support
of their Motion to Compel, which it filed under seal. Doc. 109. Plaintiffs filed a Response, also
under seal. Doc. 112. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion to seal in part.
It is well-settled that federal courts recognize a common-law right of access to judicial
records. Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597–99 (1978); Crystal
Grower's Corp. v. Dobbins, 616 F.2d 458, 461 (10th Cir.1980). This right derives from the
public’s interest “in understanding disputes that are presented to a public forum for resolution”
and is intended to “assure that the courts are fairly run and judges are honest.” Crystal Grower’s
Corp., 616 F.2d at 461. This public right of access, however, is not absolute. Nixon, 435 U.S. at
598. As federal district courts have supervisory control over their own records and files, the
decision whether to allow access to those records is left to the court’s sound discretion. Crystal
Grower’s Corp., 616 F.2d at 461. In exercising that discretion, the court must consider the
relevant facts and circumstances of the case and balance the public’s right of access, which is
presumed paramount, with the parties’ interests in sealing the record or some portion of the
record. Id. Documents should be sealed “only on the basis of articulable facts known to the
court, not on the basis of unsupported hypothesis or conjecture.” Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d
1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995).
A party seeking to overcome the presumption of public access to judicial documents
bears the burden of showing “some significant interest that outweighs the presumption.” Mann
v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir. 2007); Colony Ins. Co. v. Burke, 698 F.3d 1222,
1241 (10th Cir. 2012). “Whether a trial court exercises sound discretion will be based on the
facts and circumstances of the individual case and the weighing of the parties’ interests.” Riker
v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 315 F. App’x 752, 755 (10th Cir. 2009).
In keeping with the paramount right of public access, this Court requires a party moving
for permission to file a particular document under seal to demonstrate a private interest sufficient
to justify the sealing of the document. That the parties have agreed a document should be filed
under seal is not sufficient; the party seeking to file a document under seal must establish that his
or her interest in keeping the documents private outweighs the public’s right of access to judicial
In the instant case, the parties agreed to a Stipulated Confidentiality Order (Doc. 103).
The confidentiality order does not entitle the parties to automatically seal confidential
information filed with the Court. Doc. 103 at 4. Instead, the confidentiality order directs the
party submitting the confidential information with the Court to file a motion to seal. Id. The
party designating the information as confidential must then file “a declaration identifying the
confidential information contained in the document and stating whether the designated material
is sealable, and if so why, within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the motion to file under seal.”
Id. “If the designating party does not file a responsive declaration within the fourteen-day time
period, the submitting party may file the document in the public record no earlier than four days,
and no later than ten days, after the motion is denied.” Id. Plaintiffs filed the required motion to
seal on August 8, 2017. Doc. 108. Plaintiffs sought concurrence from defendants, but did not
receive a reply. Id. at 1. Defendants did not file a declaration within 14 days, as required by the
Despite defendants’ failure to file the declaration, the Court finds that some of the
documents filed with the Court are clearly subject to the confidentiality order and should remain
sealed. The Court rules that the Attachment (Exhibit A–E) filed with the supplemental motion to
compel (Doc. 107) contains confidential information, and orders it to remain sealed. The Court,
however, finds that the parties have not overcome “the presumption of public access to judicial
documents” sufficient to justify the sealing of the motion, response, and reply.
Accordingly, the Court orders the Clerk of Court to unseal the following documents on
September 19, 2019:
Plaintiffs’ Supplemental Brief in Support of Their Motion to Compel (Doc. 107)
Plaintiffs’ Motion to Seal (Doc. 108)
Defendant GEICO’s Response in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Supplemental Brief in
Support of Their Motion to Compel (Doc. 109)
Plaintiff’s Supplemental Reply Brief in Support of Their Motion to Compel (Doc.
The Court grants plaintiff’s motion to seal the Attachment (Exhibit A–E) (Doc. 107-1).
This document will remain sealed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United State Magistrate Judge
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