United States District Court, D. Hawaii
IN RE MOTION TO UNSEAL COURT RECORDS CIVIL BEAT LAW CENTER FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST, Petitioner.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION, ECF NO.
MICHAEL SEABRIGHT, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 14, 2018, Petitioner Civil Beat Law Center for the
Public Interest (“Law Center”) filed its
“Motion to Unseal Court Records, ” moving to
unseal court records filed in United States v. Katherine
P. Kealoha, Cr. No. 17-00582 JMS-RLP-1. ECF No. 1. On
December 21, 2018, Magistrate Judge Puglisi issued his
“Order Denying Civil Beat Law Center for the Public
Interest's Motion to Unseal Court Records, ” and
the Law Center appealed the decision on December 31, 2018.
ECF Nos. 7, 8. On February 20, 2019, the court issued its
“Order Affirming in Part and Reversing in Part
Magistrate Judge's Order Denying Petitioner's Motion
to Unseal Court Records, ECF No. 7” (“February 20
Order”). ECF No. 12. The February 20 Order unsealed a
number of documents (but not all) related to Katherine
Kealoha's (“Kealoha”) competency evaluation.
See Id. at PageID # 88-90. Currently before the
court is the Law Center's March 6, 2019 Motion for
Reconsideration of the February 20 Order (“Motion for
Reconsideration”). ECF No. 13. Kealoha filed a Response to
the Motion for Reconsideration on March 21, 2019, ECF No. 15,
and the United States filed its Response on March 22, 2019,
ECF No. 16. The Law Center filed a Reply on March 25, 2019.
ECF No. 19. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds
this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.
on the following, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part
the Motion for Reconsideration. The court will file redacted
versions of the contested documents.
February 20 Order, the court found that a qualified First
Amendment right of access attaches to mental competency
hearings, ECF No. 12 at Page ID # 86, and thus “the
press and the public have a presumed right of access to
[those] court proceedings and documents, ”
Oregonian Pub. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Dist. of
Oregon, 920 F.2d 1462, 1465 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing
Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 464 U.S.
501, 510 (1985) (“Press-Enterprise I”)).
But when the First Amendment right of access attaches, it is
still a qualified right:
[t]he presumption of openness may be overcome only by an
overriding interest based on findings that closure is
essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored
to serve that interest. The interest is to be articulated
along with findings specific enough that a reviewing court
can determine whether the closure order was properly entered.
Press-Enterprise I, 464 U.S. at 510; see also
Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478
U.S. 1, 9 (1986) (“Press-Enterprise II”)
(“But even when a right of access attaches, it is not
absolute.”). Applying these principles, the February 20
Order kept the competency evaluation report sealed to protect
Kealoha's right to privacy in her medical information.
The February 20 Order also kept the competency hearing and
any associated transcripts sealed.
the Law Center moves the court to reconsider the February 20
Order, arguing for public release of the competency
evaluation report and the transcript of the competency
hearing. ECF No. 13 at PageID # 96. The Law Center cites
several cases where competency hearing transcripts and
competency evaluation reports were made public (at least in
part) and argues that any redactions should be limited in
scope. Id. at PageID # 98-100, # 108-113.
opposes any unsealing of the competency evaluation report,
while the government argues that “it may be
appropriate” to release a redacted version of the
report. ECF No. 15 at PageID # 678-79; ECF No. 16
at PageID # 684-85. Kealoha does not object to unsealing
limited portions of the competency hearing transcript, and
the government similarly argues that “it may be
appropriate” to release a redacted
version. ECF No. 15 at PageID # 678-79; ECF No. 16
at PageID # 684.
court has reviewed these sealed documents and will release
redacted versions of both. These redactions will be made only
where essential to preserve higher values (in this instance,
the right to privacy of medical information, the
attorney-client privilege, and the right to a fair trial) and
are narrowly tailored to serve that interest. See
Press-Enterprise I, 464 U.S. at 510. The court discusses
the legal framework of each “higher value” and
then makes specific findings. See id.
Right to Privacy in Medical Information
general matter, the Supreme Court has not definitively
answered whether there is a constitutional right to privacy
in personal information (such as medical information).
See Nat'l Aeronautics & Space Admin. v.
Nelson,562 U.S. 134, 147 n.10 (2011); Nixon v.
Adm'r of Gen. Servs., 433 U.S. 425, 457-58 (1977);
Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 599 (1977)). While the
Ninth Circuit has not ruled on the narrower issue of whether
“the constitution protects medical privacy, ”
Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d 530, 536 (9th Cir.
2010), a number of other courts have recognized such a right.
See Anderson v. Romero, 72 F.3d 518, 522 (7th Cir.
1995) (collecting cases) (“A number of cases in the
lower federal courts, including our own, building on
Whalen and Nixon, recognize a qualified
constitutional right to the confidentiality of medical
records and medical communications.”); see also Doe
v. Delie, 257 F.3d 309, 315 (3d Cir. 2001) (“We
have long recognized the right to privacy in one's
medical information . . . .”); United States v.
Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 638 F.2d 570, 577 (3d Cir.
1980) (“Information about one's body and state of
health is matter which the individual is ordinarily entitled
to retain within the private enclave where he may lead a