United States District Court, W.D. Washington
THOMAS PEREZ, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. The Court
ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff,
finding that DirecTV was a joint employer for purposes of the
FLSA. Dkt. #158.
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.
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.
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).
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 ...