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Jones v. State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

March 19, 2018

DAVID JONES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for a protective order. Dkt. 36. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The parties in this case agree that a protective order should be entered to protect confidential information disclosed by all parties, but Plaintiffs and Defendants have been unable to agree on the scope of protection. See Dkt. 37. They have attempted in good faith to resolve their concerns, including multiple exchanges of drafts of a proposed stipulated protective order. Id. On November 7, 2017, the parties conferenced and determined that they could not resolve their differences.

         On December 1, 2017, the parties filed a joint request regarding their disagreement. Dkt. 32. On December 4, 2017, the Court denied the request, stating:

The problem with the parties' submission is that they have not come to an agreement on a stipulated protective order nor specified any discovery that they seek to protect or compel. Stipulated protective orders are allowed under Local Civil Rule precisely because they are stipulated. See W.D. Wash. Local Rules LCR 26(c). Absent such a stipulation, the Court is unaware of any authority to enter such a protective order unless the party seeking a limitation on a discovery disclosure has satisfied its burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Similarly, the Court cannot compel discovery unless a party seeking discovery has appropriately moved and carried its burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a).
The parties have failed to carry their burden under the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to either compel or limit discovery. Accordingly, Defendants' motion for a protective order is denied. If Plaintiff seeks discovery of confidential information, Defendants may move for protective relief on the specified discovery and seek an order appropriately limiting such discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1).

Dkt. 34 at 2.

         On January 31, 2018, Defendants filed a new motion for a protective order. Dkt. 36. On February 13, 2018, Plaintiffs responded. Dkt. 38. On February 15, 208, Defendants replied.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) governs the issuance of protective orders in civil matters. A court may enter a protective order “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Information sought during pre-trial discovery is presumptively open to the public, but a party seeking a protective order may override this presumption by demonstrating “good cause” that the information should be protected from public disclosure. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2002).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that “specific prejudice or harm will result if no protective order is granted.” Id. at 1210. The Court may limit discovery or enter a protective order where the moving party shows that the interests in limiting discovery “outweigh [the discovery's] likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of discovery in resolving the issues.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2) (C)(iii). See Brown Bag Software v. Symantec Corp., 960 F.2d 1465, 1469-70 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Defendants seek a protective order regarding two specific categories of information. First, Defendants seek to limit the public disclosure of State employees' home addresses, emergency contact information, telephone numbers, and social security numbers. Second, Defendants seek to limit the public disclosure of a somewhat broad and vague category of information that it describes as “enforcement information, ” including “records related to search warrants.”

         Plaintiffs do not argue that such information should not be protected generally from public disclosure, although they do comment that arguments could be made regarding overbreadth of the purportedly confidential information. Instead Plaintiffs highlight that the parties' dispute revolves around the extent to which the disclosure of the discoverable information should be limited by any ...


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