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Perez v. Lantern Light Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

May 17, 2017

THOMAS PEREZ, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
v.
LANTERN LIGHT CORPORATION d/b/a Advanced Information Systems, a corporation; DIRECTV LLC, a limited liability company; and RAMON MARTINEZ, an individual, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO UNSEAL DOCUMENTS

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on The Washington Wage Claim Project's (“WWCP” or “Intervenor”) motion to unseal documents. Dkt. #172. WWCP is a “public interest organization dedicated to representing low-wage workers who have suffered wage and hour violations.” Dkt. #172. Although this case has been closed since October of 2015, the Court recently allowed WWCP to intervene in this matter pursuant to Local Civil Rule 5(g)(8) for the sole purpose of making a motion to unseal records. See Dkt. #185. Defendant DirecTV opposes the motion in part, acknowledging that several of the documents sought to be unsealed may be unsealed or filed in redacted form, but also arguing that many of the documents should remain sealed because they contain confidential and proprietary information. Dkt. #183. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court now GRANTS the motion to unseal records.

         II. BACKGROUND

         DirecTV provides subscription direct broadcast satellite television service to customers nationwide and throughout Washington State. Dkts. #129 at ¶ 1 and #127, Ex. 1 at 32:13-23. A DirecTV subscription requires the installation and activation of the DirecTV satellite dish affixed to the customer's home or office, and a DirecTV box connected to the television. In geographical regions where DirecTV does not provide DirecTV “owned and operated” installation services, it sub-contracts all installation work to Home Service Providers (“HSPs”). Dkt. #129 at ¶ 2. The now-bankrupt AIS was an independent specialty contractor of satellite installation and activation services organized under the laws of Washington. Dkts. #130 at ¶ 19 (filed under seal) and #7 at ¶ 5(a). In 2011, AIS contracted to provide satellite installation and upgrade services exclusively for DirecTV upon assuming the 2009 “Service Provider Agreement” between DirecTV and prior installer Lumin, Inc. Dkt. #129 at ¶ 3 and Ex. 1. Installer-technicians employed and trained by AIS installed DirecTV's proprietary satellite systems exclusively for DirecTV customers in Western Washington. Dkts. #127, Ex. 3 at 50:5-10 and #129 at ¶ 25.

         AIS Installers were paid biweekly for completed work orders as “piece work, ” based on a fixed percentage of the corresponding task-based “piece rates” paid by DirecTV to AIS. Dkt. #127, Ex. 3 at 94:17-24 and 98:7-12 and Ex. 4 at 29:11-16. Depending on the workload, AIS Installers were scheduled for 10-hour shifts, shifts ending at 8:00 p.m., and six-day work weeks. Dkt. #122, Ex. K at 55:22-57:15 and Ex. L (filed under seal).

         On August 20, 2012, the United States Secretary of Labor brought this case on behalf of 82 Installers formerly employed by AIS. Dkts. #1 and #31. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants AIS, DirecTV and Ramon Martinez violated the FLSA by repeatedly paying employees less than the federal minimum wage; failing to pay employees who worked in excess of 40 hours per week at a rate of one-and-a-half times the regular rate at which they were employed; and failing to keep and preserve accurate records of employees and the wages, hours and other conditions of employment maintained by them, since at least August 21, 2009. Dkt. #31. Plaintiff also asserted that AIS and Mr. Martinez were liable under the FLSA as employers of the aforementioned Satellite Installation Technicians. Id. Plaintiff further alleged that DirecTV was a joint employer of AIS's employees and was therefore also liable under the FLSA. Id.

         In March of 2015, the parties filed Cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, seeking a determination as to whether DirecTV was a joint employer for purposes of the FLSA. Dkts. #121 and #126. At the same time, the parties also filed a Stipulated Motion to Seal certain exhibits containing proprietary information that “derive[d] independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use.” Dkt. #115. The Court granted the motion and 21 exhibits were filed under seal. Dkts. #116-120, #130, #131, #133, #143, #144, #147 and #148.[1] The Court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, finding that DirecTV was a joint employer for purposes of the FLSA. Dkt. #158.

         Shortly thereafter, the parties engaged in settlement discussions and resolved the case. Dkts. #159-#162. The Court entered consent judgments against the Defendants and this matter was closed on October 15, 2015. Dkts. #165 and #167.

         Nearly two years later, WWCP has now intervened for the sole purpose of moving to unseal the sealed exhibits presented on the cross-motions for summary judgment, on the bases that this Court violated the public's presumptive right to access to these records and that “there is a strong public interest in exposing the sealed exhibits to the light of day.” Dkt. #172.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has long emphasized that the public has a “‘general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'” In re Midland Nat'l Life Ins. Co. Annuity Sales Practices Litig. v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 686 F.3d 1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978) (footnote omitted)). This right extends to pretrial documents filed in civil cases. San Jose Mercury News, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 187 F.3d 1096, 1102 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Although the common law right of access is not absolute, this Court begins with the premise that “[t]here is a strong presumption of public access to [its] files.” W.D. Wash. Local Civ. R. 5(g)(3); see also Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978). A party, therefore, must demonstrate “compelling reasons” to seal judicial records attached to a dispositive motion. Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 2006). When ruling on a motion to seal or unseal court records, the district court must balance the competing interests of the public and the party seeking to seal or unseal such records. Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179. To seal the records, the district court must articulate a ...


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