United States District Court, D. Nevada
DARIN J. FRANKLIN, Plaintiff,
TANIA ARGUELLO, et. al., Defendants.
WILLIAM G. COBB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is Defendants' Motion for Leave to File Medical
Records Under Seal. (Electronic Case Filing (ECF) No. 34.)
Plaintiff filed a response and cross-motion to unseal
exhibits (ECF No. 40), and Defendants filed a reply (ECF No.
motion, Defendants seek to file under seal exhibits
containing Plaintiff's medical records. The exhibits are
filed in connection with their Partial Motion to Dismiss.
courts have recognized a general right to inspect and copy
public records and documents, including judicial records and
documents.” See Kamakana v. City and County of
Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
“‘Throughout our history, the open courtroom has
been a fundamental feature of the American judicial system.
Basic principles have emerged to guide judicial discretion
respecting public access to judicial proceedings. These
principles apply as well to the determination of whether to
permit access to information contained in court documents
because court records often provide important, sometimes the
only, bases or explanations for a court's
decision.'” Oliner v. Kontrabecki, 745
F.3d 1024, 1025 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Brown &
Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. F.T.C., 710 F.2d 1165, 1177
(6th Cir. 1983)).
that have been traditionally kept secret, including grand
jury transcripts and warrant materials in a pre-indictment
investigation, come within an exception to the general right
of public access. See Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1178.
Otherwise, “a strong presumption in favor of access is
the starting point.” Id. (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). “The presumption of access
is ‘based on the need for federal courts, although
independent-indeed, particularly because they are
independent-to have a measure of accountability and for the
public to have confidence in the administration of
justice.'” Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler
Group, LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1096 (9th Cir. 2016),
cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 38 (Oct. 3, 2016) (quoting
United States v. Amodeo (Amodeo II), 71 F.3d 1044,
1048 (2nd Cir. 1995); Valley Broad Co. v. U.S. Dist.
Court-D. Nev., 798 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1986)).
are two possible standards a party must address when it seeks
to file a document under seal: the compelling reasons
standard or the good cause standard. See Center for Auto
Safety, 809 F.3d at 1096-97. Under the compelling
reasons standard, “a court may seal records only when
it finds ‘a compelling reason and articulate[s] the
factual basis for its ruling, without relying on hypothesis
or conjecture.” Id. (quoting
Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179). “The court must
then ‘conscientiously balance[ ] the competing
interests of the public and the party who seeks to keep
certain judicial records secret.” Id.
“What constitutes a ‘compelling reason' is
‘best left to the sound discretion of the trial
court.'” Id. (quoting Nixon v. Warner
Comm., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978)). “Examples
include when a court record might be used to ‘gratify
private spite or promote public scandal, ' to circulate
‘libelous' statements, or ‘as sources of
business information that might harm a litigant's
competitive standing.'” Id. (quoting
Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598-99).
for Auto Safety described the good cause standard, on
the other hand, as the exception to public access that had
been applied to “sealed materials attached to a
discovery motion unrelated to the merits of a case.”
Id. (citing Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v.
Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1213-14 (9th Cir.
2002)). “The ‘good cause language comes from Rule
26(c)(1), which governs the issuance of protective orders in
the discovery process: ‘The court may, for good cause,
issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.”
Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)).
Ninth Circuit has clarified that the key in determining which
standard to apply in assessing a motion for leave to file a
document under seal is whether the documents proposed for
sealing accompany a motion that is “more than
tangentially related to the merits of a case.”
Center for Auto Safety, 809 F.3d at 1101 (9th Cir.
2016). If that is the case, the compelling reasons standard
is applied. If not, the good cause standard is applied.
Defendants seek to file exhibits under seal in connection
with their partial motion to dismiss which is unquestionably
“more than tangentially related to the merits of a
case.” Therefore, the compelling reasons standard
argue that the records should be filed under seal because
they contain details about Plaintiff's medical issues.
Plaintiff asserts that the medical records should not be
filed under seal, and that the court order Defendants to
refrain from filing future motions requesting the filing of
Plaintiff's medical records under seal. (ECF No. 40 at
2.) Plaintiff states that he wants his medical records to be
part of the public record, and indicates that he has executed
a release of his medical information expressly authorizing
the dissemination of his medical records to the public.
(Id. at 3, 7-8.)
their reply, Defendants acknowledge Plaintiff may waive his
right to privacy, and do not oppose his waiver so long as it
is for his entire medical file. (ECF No. 44 at 1.) They point
out, however, that his waiver limits what can and cannot be
made public, which will result in certain records being
redacted and/or filed under seal. In addition, they state
that inmates may not maintain medical records in their cells,
and to the extent Plaintiff seeks to contravene prison
regulations on this issue they oppose his request to unseal
the records. (ECF No. 44 at 1.)
court, and others within the Ninth Circuit, have recognized
that the need to protect medical privacy qualifies as a
“compelling reason” for sealing records. See,
e.g., San Ramon Regional Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Principal Life
Ins. Co., 2011 WL89931, at *n.1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 10,
2011); Abbey v. Hawaii Employers Mut. Ins. Co., 2010
WL4715793, at * 1-2 (D. HI. Nov. 15, 2010); G. v.
Hawaii, 2010 WL 267483, at *1-2 (D.HI. June 25, 2010);
Wilkins v. Ahern, 2010 WL3755654 (N.D. Cal. Sept.
24, 2010); Lombardi v. TriWest Healthcare Alliance
Corp., 2009 WL 1212170, at * 1 (D.Ariz. May 4, 2009).
case, however, Plaintiff has waived any privacy interest he
has in his medical records, has signed a release to that
effect, and has by virtue of filing his opposition and cross-
motion expressly granted authority to disseminate medical
records in the public record in this action. Therefore,
compelling reasons no longer exist for sealing the records.
Therefore, Defendants' motion (ECF No. 34.) is
DENIED, and Plaintiffs cross-motion is
GRANTED insofar as he requests that the exhibits
that are the subject of Defendants' motion remain
unsealed. The court will not issue a blanket order precluding
Defendants from seeking leave to file records under seal in
the future, but will deal with such a motion on a
case-by-case basis, although in light of Plaintiffs waiver of
any privacy interest in his records it seems unlikely that a
motion to file records under seal in this case should be
necessary in the future. Insofar as Defendants indicate that
Plaintiffs waiver only allows certain records to be made
public, they can negotiate with Plaintiff to sign a release
concerning any additional medical records that may need to be
filed in this action. The court concludes that Plaintiffs
response and cross-motion sufficiently waive any privacy
interest in those ...