United States District Court, D. Nevada
the court is the NDOC defendants' motion for leave to
file confidential documents under seal in support of
defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 93).
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.
defendants seek to file exhibits under seal in connection
with their motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 92) which is
unquestionably "more than tangentially related to the
merits of a case." Therefore, the compelling reasons
seek leave to file plaintiff's PSI report under seal
because these records contain relevant, yet sensitive
information, which have been long considered to be
confidential documents which inmates are prohibited from
keeping in their cells for reasons of security and safety.
Courts generally defer to the judgement of prison officials
in the matters of security. Bell v. Wolfish, 441
U.S. 520, 547 (1979). See also Norwood v. Vance, 591
F.3d 1062, 1066 (9th Cir. 2009).
the need for the public's access to information regarding
plaintiffs records against the need to promote plaintiffs
confidentiality and institutional safety and security weighs
in favor of sealing these exhibits. Therefore,
defendants' motion to seal (ECF No. 93) is
GRANTED. The exhibit (ECF No. 94) is filed
and shall remain under seal.