United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER Re: ECF No. 33
WILLIAM G. COBB UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the court is Plaintiff Mercedes Urbina's Renewed Motion
to File Records Under Seal. (ECF No. 33.)
previously filed a motion seeking to file certain records
under seal. (ECF No. 26.) After setting forth the standard
for sealing records, the court denied that motion without
prejudice for a multitude of reasons, including: (1) Urbina
did not file the documents she sought to have sealed with her
motion (which would have been provisionally sealed by the
Clerk while the motion was pending); (2) Urbina did not
specifically describe the documents she sought to file under
seal so that the court could determine the propriety of
sealing the documents; (3) Urbina did not indicate why she
sought to file the documents under seal (i.e., correlate them
with a pending motion); (4) Urbina did not address the
compelling reasons or good cause standards discussed in
Center for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Group, LCC, 809
F.3d 1092 (9th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct.
38 (Oct. 3, 2016); (5) Urbina erroneously asserted that
medical records are the type “traditionally kept
secret”; and (6) Urbina erroneously relied on the
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
(HIPPA) as a basis for sealing the records. (ECF No. 30.) The
court advised Urbina she could renew her motion, but any
future motion should correct the deficiencies noted in the
January 18, 2018, Urbina filed her renewed motion. (ECF No.
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. If that is
the case, the compelling reasons standard is applied. If not,
the good cause standard is applied.
states that she issued a subpoena to Tahoe Fracture Clinic,
and received documents in response to the subpoena on
December 18, 2017. She states generally that the documents
contain her personal medical history, as well as the
contracts she signed with Tahoe Fracture Clinic. She seeks to
file the entirety of Tahoe Fracture Clinic's subpoena
response under seal. She also wishes to file an unredacted
copy of Tahoe Fracture Clinic's September 23, 2016
“Explanation of Benefits” (EOB) under seal. These
documents are designated by Urbina as Exhibits A and B (filed
in as ECF Nos. 34, 35), and were provisionally sealed by the
Clerk while the motion for leave to file under seal is
pending. Urbina indicates that these records establish she
could not have owed $614.52 when defendant National Business
Factors, Inc. of Nevada (NBF) began assessing interest.
being previously advised to the contrary, and without citing
any authority to support her position, Urbina again argues
that the traditional presumption of public access does not
apply to the documents she seeks to have filed under seal.
This is simply not the case. In Kamakana v. City and
County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006),
the Ninth Circuit discussed the kinds of documents which have
traditionally been kept secret, which include grand jury
transcripts and warrant materials in a pre-indictment
investigation. 447 F.3d at 1178. Medical records are not
included in this category; therefore, “a ...