Friday, July 26, 2013

Parties Admonished to Consider the Burden of Sealing Court Documents

In denying a third party's motion to seal, the court admonished the parties to consider the burden that motions to seal place upon the court. "[C]ourts must take all necessary steps to protect confidential information in their custody, even if the parties ultimately fall short of proving that confidentiality – and even if the tidiness of a given judge's chambers is ruffled a bit in the process. . . . Except where, as here, a third party . . . seeks to seal perhaps the most basic, public information one could imagine – published case citations in support of its motion to quash. . . . [R]ather than . . . upbraid the latest offending party, the court takes this opportunity to shed some light on the burden that sealing imposes. . . . A substantive motion . . . often generates three or four motions to seal – one for the motion and its exhibits, a second for the opposition and its exhibits, and a third for the reply and any remaining exhibits. . . . The net result is that for this one withdrawn motion to quash, the court will have reviewed four overlapping but distinct requests to seal. Even if the particular exhibit for which the parties have requested sealing bears no relevance on the outcome of the particular dispute – a good example is a meet-and-confer letter offered to illustrate just how big a jerk opposing counsel is – the court must review the details of the exhibit to determine whether the information in fact should remain confidential. . . . [V]aluable resources in this era of growing scarcity that could be spent on the merits of this or another case are consumed. And none of this, of course, speaks to the burden on any member of the public looking to understand what her tax dollars are being spent on. Sealing requests require serious consideration from the court. The court happily engages in that consideration, as is its duty. . . . But understand – please – that these requests come at a real cost. Especially when the request is to seal case citations."

Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., et. al., 5-12-cv-00630 (CAND July 24, 2013, Order) (Grewal, M.J.).

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