United States District Court, D. Nevada
BARRY C. ROWE, Plaintiff,
ROMEO ARANAS, et al., Defendants.
the court are defendants' two motions for leave to file
medical records under seal (ECFNos.28&4l).
these motions, defendants seek to file under seal exhibits
containing plaintiffs medical records. The exhibits are filed
in connection with a motion for summary judgment and an
opposition to a motion summary judgment.
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 (AmodeoII), 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.
defendants seek to file exhibits under seal in connection
with their motion for summary judgment and in opposition to
plaintiffs motion for summary judgment which are
unquestionably "more than tangentially related to the
merits of a case." Therefore, the compelling reasons
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. Or., Inc. v. Principal Life
Ins. Co., 2011 WL8993l, at *n.l (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 *l-2 (D.HI. June 25, 2010);
Wilkins v. Ahem, 2010 WL3755654 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 24,
2010); Lombardi v. TriWest Healthcare Alliance
Corp., 2009 WL 1212170, at * 1 (D.Ariz. May 4, 2009).
This is because a person's medical records contain
sensitive and private information about their health. While a
plaintiff puts certain aspects of his medical condition at
issue when he files an action alleging deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need under the Eighth
Amendment, that does not mean that the entirety of his
medical records filed in connection with a motion (which
frequently contain records that pertain to unrelated medical
information) need be unnecessarily broadcast to the public.
In other words, the plaintiffs interest in keeping his
sensitive health information confidential outweighs the
public's need for direct access to the medical records.
the referenced exhibits contain plaintiffs sensitive health
information, medical history, and treatment records.
Balancing the need for the public's access to information
regarding plaintiffs medical history, treatment, and
condition against the need to maintain the confidentiality of
plaintiffs medical records weighs in favor of sealing these
exhibits. Therefore, defendants' motions (ECF Nos. 28
&41) are GRANTED.