Use this At A Glance Guide to learn the statewide rules of civil procedure, (the California Code of Civil Procedure and California Rules of Court) that govern a motion to file under seal in the California Superior Courts. For more detailed information, including local rules, on bringing a motion to file under seal in a specific California Superior Court, please see the SmartRules Guide Motion to File Under Seal for the court where your action is pending.
There are no statutory restrictions regarding the timing for motions to file documents under seal.
Motion to File Under Seal Rules:
This At A Glance Guide covers the requirements for motions to file documents under seal pursuant to California Rules of Court 2.550 and 2.551. These rules apply to motions regarding discovery materials that are used at trial or submitted as a basis for adjudication of matters other than discovery motions or proceedings. CRC 2.550. California Rules of Court 2.550 and 2.551 do not apply to motions regarding records that are required to be kept confidential by law, or discovery motions and records filed or lodged in connection with discovery motions or proceedings. CRC 2.550(a)(1); CRC 2.550(a)(2).
If a party desires to file a document under seal, it must do so by motion or application. Parties cannot stipulate to filing documents under seal; the filing must be done by court order. CRC 2.551.
The court may order that a record be filed under seal only if it expressly finds facts that establish:
1. There exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to the record;
2. The overriding interest supports sealing the record;
3. A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed;
4. The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and
5. No less restrictive means exist to achieve the over-riding interest.
If the motion or application is denied, the clerk must return the lodged record to the submitting party and must not place it in the case file unless the submitting party notifies the clerk within ten (10) days after the order denying the motion. CRC 2.551(b)(6).
Orders sealing the record must:
1. State whether, in addition to records in the envelope or container, the order itself, the register of actions, other court records, or any other records relating to the case are to be sealed. CRC 2.551(e)(2).
2. State whether any person other than the court is authorized to inspect the sealed record. CRC 2.551(e)(3).