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Clemons v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 12, 2019

DE'MARIAN A. CLEMONS, Plaintiff(s),
v.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, et al., Defendant(s).

          ORDER (DOCKET NOS. 249, 260)

          NANCY J. KOPPE UNITED STATES MAGRSTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' counsel's (the “OAG”) motion to file under seal its motion to withdraw (Docket No. 250) and its supplement to the motion to seal. Docket Nos. 249, 260. For the reasons stated below, the motion to seal is DENIED, and the supplemental motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. STANDARDS

         There is a strong presumption of public access to judicial records. See Kamakana v. City & County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006). A party seeking to file documents under seal must overcome that presumption. Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 678 (9th Cir. 2010).

         The standard for a motion to seal turns on whether the sealed materials relate to a dispositive or non-dispositive motion. See Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1097-99 (9th Cir. 2016). A motion is “dispositive” if it “is more than tangentially related” to the merits. See Id. at 1101. A motion to withdraw is at most only tangentially related to the merits. It is thus non-dispositive.

         For a motion to seal materials that relate to a non-dispositive motion, “a party need only satisfy the less exacting ‘good cause' standard.” Id. at 1098. “The ‘good cause' language comes from [Fed. R. Civ. P. 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. To establish “good cause, ” a party must show “that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted.” Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2003). “Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not satisfy the Rule 26(c) test.” Beckman Indus., Inc. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 470, 476 (9th Cir. 1992). Rule 26(c) confers “broad discretion on the trial court to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required.” Seattle Times Co. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 33 (1984).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The OAG moves to seal its motion to withdraw for two reasons: that the motion contains (1) embarrassing information; and (2) information protected by attorney-client privilege. The Court analyzes each reason in turn.

         A. Embarrassing Information

         The OAG argues that the motion contains “details involving an altercation between [Defendant] Dressler and an employee of the OAG.” Docket No. 260 at 3. The OAG asserts that those details are “highly embarrassing to not only [Defendant] Dressler, but also the OAG employee.” Id. The OAG asserts that embarrassing details are on these pages of the motion: 3:25- 28, 4:1-9, 4:15-16, 5:16-25, 5:28, 6:1, Exhibit A at 4:5-11, and Exhibit B at 2:19-22 and 3:1-3. Id. The OAG's argument stops there.

         The OAG fails to meet the good-cause standard. The OAG's submission constitutes a broad allegation, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning; in other words, exactly what does not suffice as a showing of good cause pursuant to Beckman.

         B. Information Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege

         The OAG submits that the motion contains communications “protected by attorney-client privilege.” Id. The OAG asserts that Defendant “Dressler has conceded in her Opposition that the information relied upon by the OAG and [her] is properly considered attorney-client privileged or work product, and that she herself would object to any disclosure of the information to ‘any person.'” Id. at 4 (citing Docket No. 259 at 2 n.1). The OAG asserts that information protected by attorney-client privilege is on these pages of the motion: 2:16-22, 2:27-28, 3:1, 3:20-24, and 4:10-12; Exhibit A at 2:3-5, 2:8-12, 2:17-20, 2:25-27, 3:1-7, 3:14-16; and all of Exhibit C. Id.

         “Attorney-client privilege protects confidential disclosures made by a client to an attorney” for legal advice, “as well as the attorney's advice” in response. United States v. Bauer, 132 F.3d 504, 507 (9th Cir. 1997). “[T]hat a person is a lawyer does not make all communications with that person privileged.” United States v. Martin, 278 F.3d 988, 999 (9th Cir. 2002). “Because it impedes full and free discovery of the truth, the attorney-client privilege is strictly construed.” Id. The privilege must be “‘strictly confined within the narrowest possible limits consistent with the logic of its principle.'” United States v. Ruehle, ...


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