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Yu v. Idaho State University

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 19, 2018

JUN YU, Plaintiff,
IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY, and JOHN/JANE DOES I through X, whose true identities are presently unknown, Defendants.



         Pending are Defendant's Motion to Seal Dkt. Entry 115 and 115-1 (Dkt. 116) and Motion to Seal Dkt. Entry 124 and 124-1 (Dkt. 126). Having reviewed the briefing and supporting filings, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Decision and Order:

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jun Yu (“Yu”) sued Defendant Idaho State University (“ISU”) in 2015 under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, after ISU dismissed Yu from its Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program in 2013. On February 8, 2018, after extensive discovery and motion practice, trial was set to begin on November 13, 2018. (Dkt. 67.) A pretrial conference was scheduled for October 23, 2018.

         On October 12, 2018, Defendant's lead counsel Michael Kelly moved to continue trial until mid-January 2019 or later, based on a scheduling conflict of a personal and confidential nature. (Dkts. 115, 115-1.) On October 15, 2018, Defendant moved to seal its motion to continue and its affidavit of counsel in support of the motion to continue. (Dkt. 116.) On October 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed a memorandum opposing Defendant's motion to continue trial (Dkt. 124), accompanied by an affidavit of counsel (Dkt. 124-1) and other filings (Dkts. 124-2, -3, and -4).[1] On October 17, 2018, Defendant moved to seal Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition and affidavit of counsel (Dkt. 126). Plaintiff filed a notice of non-opposition to Defendant's motions to seal. (Dkt. 127.)


         The legal standard applicable to a motion to seal depends on the subject matter of the target filings and on the procedural posture of the case. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2, entitled “Privacy Protection for Filings Made with the Court, ” requires redaction or sealing of filings containing “an individual's social-security number, taxpayer-identification number, or birth date, the name of an individual known to be a minor, or a financial-account number.” F.R.C.P. 5.2(a), (d). Although relied upon by Defendant in support of its motions to seal, this particular rule has no applicability to the question presented by Defendant's motions to seal.

         More pertinent are whether the parties have presented “compelling reasons” to seal documents related to dispositive motions and other filings that relate to the merits of a case, Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., LLC, 809 F.3d 1092, 1099 (9th Cir. 2016), or “good cause” to seal documents attached to non-dispositive motions. Kamakana v. City and Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 2006). The filings at issue do not involve dispositive motions or otherwise implicate the merits of the case; hence, it is the good cause standard that applies. This good cause standard originates from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), dealing with protective orders in discovery. Id. That is, “a particularized showing under the good cause standard of Rule 26(c) will suffice to keep sealed records attached to non-dispositive motions.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         For good cause to exist in the protective order context, the party seeking protection must show that specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210-1211 (9th Cir. 2002). “If a court finds particularized harm will result from disclosure of information to the public, then it balances the public and private interests to decide whether a protective order is necessary.” Id. In light of Kamakana's holding that the standard for sealing records derives from the rule on protective orders, this Court will apply the good cause analysis outlined in Phillips while considering Defendant's motions to seal.


         Both of Defendant's motions to seal are similarly styled. They invoke Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2(d)[2] and they argue that the filings contain counsel's “personal, confidential information.” Both motions contend there is good cause for granting the motions. Defendant's more recent motion to seal argues, as an alternative basis to seal, that Plaintiff's counsel “is now also opining … in an attempt to embarrass, ridicule and insult counsel in a feigned attempt at empathy.” (Dkt. 126 pp. 1-2.)

         Neither Rule 5.2(d) nor Plaintiff's counsel's remarks provide a sufficient basis to seal the filings at issue. Rule 5.2 applies to specific categories of information that are not implicated here. And nothing in Plaintiff's counsel's remarks offers a basis for sealing, except perhaps claiming the information disclosed is personal and confidential. Such an argument is considered more fully below.

         As described earlier, Defendant's underlying motion to continue trial is a non-dispositive motion to which Kamakana applies. Thus, the Court must assess whether Defendant has shown good cause (rather than the higher standard of “compelling reasons”) for sealing the requested filings related to the motion. This analysis begins with an inquiry into whether Defendant has shown that “specific prejudice or harm will result” if the motions to seal are not granted.

         Defendant does not expressly argue this point, other than to contend that good cause exists because of the subject matter of the filings. On review of such filings, the Court is persuaded that public disclosure of ...

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