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Castillon v. Corrections Corporation of America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

June 29, 2015

OMAR CASTILLON, DUSTY KNIGHT, JUSTIN PETERSON, LEON RUSSELL, CHRISTOPHER JORDAN, JACOB JUDD, MICHAEL FORD-BRIDGES, AND RAYMOND BRYANT, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, INC., Defendant.

ORDER ON MOTIONS TO SEAL EXHIBITS (Dkt. 170, 174)

CANDY W. DALE, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs bring this civil rights action against Corrections Corporation of America, Inc. (CCA) alleging violations of their Eighth Amendment rights prohibiting the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, and the corresponding duty of the prison to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners. The lawsuit arises out of an inmate gang attack on Plaintiffs that occurred on May 5, 2012, at CCA's Idaho Correctional Center.[1] Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment. Accompanying the parties' motions for summary judgment are two motions to seal filed by CCA, opposed by Plaintiffs. (Dkt. 170, 174.) The Court will consider the motions to seal separately from the dispositive and other related motions.[2]

DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

Court proceedings and records are generally open to the public. S ee, e.g., Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978); Assoc. Press v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. of California, 705 F.2d 1143, 1145 (9th Cir. 1983) ("We thus find that the public and press have a first amendment right of access to pretrial documents in general."). This right of access is "grounded in the First Amendment and in common law." CBS, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. of California, 765 F.2d 823, 825 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Assoc. Press, 705 F.2d at 1145). Such a general rule for access applies in civil cases. See, e.g., Gannett Co., Inc. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368, 386 n.15 (1979) ("As early as 1685, Sir John Hawles commented that open proceedings were necessary so that the truth may be discovered in civil as well as criminal matters, '" and noting that "in some civil cases the public interest in access, and the salutary effect of publicity, may be as strong as, or stronger than, in most criminal cases.").

The point of these open proceedings and records is, in part, that such matters "should take place under the public eye" because "it is of the highest moment that those who administer justice should always act under the sense of public responsibility, and that every citizen should be able to satisfy himself with his own eyes as to the mode in which a public duty is performed." Cowley v. Pulsifer, 137 Mass. 392, 394 (1884) (Holmes, J.). This interest goes beyond oversight of the judiciary: "The public has a right, and even a responsibility... to monitor the activities and performance of their own government and use this information to implement change if needed." Skinner v. Uphoff, 2005 WL 4089333, at *3 (D. Wyo. Sept. 27, 2005).

To overcome the presumption that a matter should not be sealed, the party seeking to seal must "articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings." Kamakana v. City and County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). A decision to seal records cannot be based on "hypothesis or conjecture" in place of the required compelling reasons. Id. at 1179 (citation omitted). Generally, compelling reasons "exist when such court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes, such as the use of records to gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements, or release trade secrets." Id. (Internal quotation and citation omitted). The "mere fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant's embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to further litigation will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records." Id. at 1178.

With regard to non-litigants, while there is no presumption that their privacy requires sealing, the balancing test may reach that result, especially if the non-litigants are not involved in the litigation and their sensitive and confidential information has been involuntarily provided pursuant to subpoena. See generally, In re Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland, 661 F.3d 417, 424 (9th Cir. 2011) (reversing decision to publically release personnel file of 85-year-old priest who had retired, but affirming decision to release allegations of child abuse against another priest, still active, due to strong public interest in disclosure).

2. Discussion

In its first motion, CCA requests to seal Exhibits 1(Incident Surveillance Footage), 8 (Warden Job Description), 22C (IDOC SOP 504.02.01.002 - Security Threat Group Management), 22D (CCA Policy 10-103 - Special Management Inmates), 22E (CCA General Post Order CCA-PO-00), 22F (CCA Post Order PO-106, Housing Unit Correctional Officer - Close Custody (DEF)), 22G (CCA Post Order PO-100, Housing Unit Pod Control - Close Custody (DEF)), 22J (CCA Budgeted Staffing Pattern), 22K (May 5, 2012 Shift Roster), 22L (May 5, 2012 Logbook Entries), and 22M (Kronos Data), and to file Exhibits 14, 16, 17A, 17B, and 17C in redacted form. All of the aforementioned documents were submitted as attachments to CCA's Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment. In its second motion, CCA requests to seal Exhibit 10 to CCA's Statement of Disputed Facts in Support of CCA's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment or, in the alternative, to file it in redacted form.

Upon gleaning through the responses and replies, it appears CCA has agreed to redact Exhibits 22C, 22D, 22E, 22F, 22G, 22M, and has withdrawn its request to seal Exhibits 8, 22J, 22K, and 22L. CCA agreed also to redact Exhibit 10 pursuant to the compromise proposed in Plaintiffs' response brief. Plaintiffs took no position regarding the proposed redacted Exhibits 14, 16, 17A, 17B, and 17C, and instead requested court review of the same. Therefore, the issues remaining are whether Exhibit 1 should remain sealed; whether the proposed redactions to Exhibits 22C, 22D, 22E, 22F, 22G, 22M are sufficient; and whether redacted Exhibits 14, 16, 17A, 17B, and 17C may remain redacted as proposed.

With regard to Exhibit 1, which is the video surveillance footage of the actual attack, Plaintiffs indicate the video was released to the public by the State of Idaho pursuant to a public records request, and is attached to the Amended Complaint[3] on file in this matter. Plaintiffs further claim the video was shown in the evening news and is available on the internet. Plaintiffs' claim is partially accurate, as near as the Court can tell. The video attached to the Amended Complaint, and which was attached to its prior iteration, is a "disc compilation comprised of two video excerpts and photographs." (emphasis added) Compl. Ex. D (Dkt. 1); Am. Compl. Ex. D (Dkt. 14). In other words, according to Plaintiffs' description, Exhibit D is not the complete video. CCA explains that Exhibit 1 is surveillance footage of F1 pod at the time of the May 5, 2012 incident, taken from a surveillance camera at ICC, now ISCC, with depictions of non-party inmates who still may be incarcerated at ISCC, and depictions of the angles and span of the cameras in DEF. CCA explains that publication of the video may pose a security risk to inmate and staff safety, especially because the same cameras that recorded the footage remain at ISCC.

Based upon the explanations of the parties, the Court is left to assume that Exhibit 1, at issue here, and Exhibit D to the complaint and amended complaint, are different and Exhibit 1 shows more than the excerpts released to Plaintiffs. Security reasons at the prison justify sealing ...


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