United States District Court - Northern District Court of California

Claudia Wilken, Chief Judge

Richard W. Wieking, Clerk of Court

E-Filing Under Seal

The Court authorized the e-filing of confidential documents under seal in civil cases beginning in 2010. New rules and procedures applicable in civil cases as of October 1, 2013 are reflected in the instructions on this page.

IMPORTANT: This page outlines the steps required to e-file a confidential document under seal in accordance with Civil L.R. 79-5. Opposing an Administrative Motion is not covered by Rule 79-5, but is subject to Civil L.R. 7-11(b).

To avoid unintentionally disclosing confidential information, read all instructions and our FAQ on this page before you begin. If you make an e-filing mistake, follow the instructions on the Correcting E-Filing Mistakes page.

The procedure for e-filing under seal consists of 3 steps, explained in detail on this page:

STEP I:

E-Filing the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal

STEP II:

Manually Serve Non-E-Filing Parties and Provide Chambers Copies

STEP III:

What to do When the Court Rules on the Administrative Motion

STEP I: E-Filing the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal

IMPORTANT :

1) If a party who is not the moving party has previously designated the document(s) at issue as confidential, different procedures, detailed separately on this page, apply.

2) If you would like to obtain a ruling on your motion to seal a document before you prepare the filing in which you plan to use the document, you should plan to file the administrative motion well in advance of the deadline for the filing; you should allow two weeks for the motion to be processed and you should alert the assigned judge's courtroom deputy by email. Otherwise, you may file the administrative motion together with the main filing and the judge will consider the motion in conjunction with the main filing.   

  1. In ECF, select Civil → Motions:
  2. Select Administrative Motion to File Under Seal:
  3. Enter the case number and filer information as usual.
  4. When prompted to upload your documents, upload your Administrative Motion as the main document; then upload the following items as attachments: 
    • Declaration (use the pull-down menu to select Declaration)
    • Proposed Order (use the pull-down menu to select Proposed Order)
    • A redacted version of the document that is sought to be filed under seal (omit if you are seeking to have the whole document filed under seal); type "Redacted Version of" and the name of your document in the Description box (e.g., "Redacted Version of Exhibit Q").
    • An unredacted version of the document sought to be filed under seal; type "Unredacted Version of" and the name of your document in the Description box (e.g., ("Unredacted Version of Exhibit Q"). During the next step of the e-filing process, you will be given an opportunity to seal the unredacted version pursuant to Civil L.R. 79-5(c).


  5. On the next screen, check the box:


  6. On the next screen, uncheck the boxes for the "Main Document," the proposed order and the redacted version of the document. In most cases, you will also uncheck the box for the declaration. Leave the box checked for the unredacted version of the document. 


    The motion, the proposed order and the redacted version of the document should never contain confidential information. Whenever possible, the declaration should be drafted so that it does not contain confidential information and does not need to be filed under seal. 

    EXAMPLE:

    The declaration should state "paragraphs 5-7 of the confidential document submitted herewith contain proprietary code," NOT "<@%&$#_>, in paragraphs 5-7 of the confidential document, is proprietary code."

    Only if there is no way to avoid including confidential information in the declaration should the declaration be filed under seal.

    IMPORTANT Never put confidential information in the Administrative Motion or Proposed Order: during the post-filing quality control process, Court staff will unlock motions and/or proposed orders that are improperly marked "sealed" and their contents will become readable by the public.
  7. Complete the remaining e-filing steps. The motion, declaration, proposed order, and redacted version (if any) will be viewable by the public, but the unredacted version will be marked *Restricted* and will not be viewable by the public or the filer.
  8. Email the Proposed Order to the Judge's Proposed Order email address using the procedure for Proposed Orders.

Note : If the document sought to be filed under seal would normally be e-filed using the Motions or Response and Replies events, use the appropriate event to e-file redacted copies of the documents after e-filing your Administrative Motion to File Under Seal. For supporting documents like exhibits you seek to e-file entirely under seal, file a placeholder in place of the actual document.

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STEP II: Manually Serve Non-E-Filing Parties and Provide Chambers Copies

  1. In accordance with Civil L.R. 5-1(h)(2), manually serve other parties who have not registered as ECF Users. Registered ECF users will be served automatically as described in Civil L.R. 5-1(h)(1) but will not have access to any attachment filed under seal (e.g., the unredacted version of the document at issue).
  2. Provide chambers copies in accordance with Civil L.R. 79-5(d)(2). The courtesy copy should be an exact copy of what was e-filed, and the ECF header should appear at the top of each page of any documents (with the exception of the documents you restricted; these restricted documents are not accessible by the public, including the filing parties, so there is no way for the filers to print out the document with the header at the top).

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STEP III: What to do When the Court Rules on the Administrative Motion 

A.   If your Administrative Motion is DENIED in its entirety, or GRANTED/DENIED IN PART, Civil L.R. 79-5(f)(2) and (3) spell out your options:

  1. Denied in its entirety: Either refrain from using the document in the case OR e-file the entire document unsealed within 7 days;
  2. Granted/Denied in part: Resubmit the document in conformance with the Court's order within 7 days.

B.   If your motion is GRANTED in its entirety, the sealed unredacted version of the document that was e-filed as an attachment to the administrative motion will remain under seal; the public will have access only to the redacted version, if any, accompanying the administrative motion.

EXAMPLE:
 
I want to e-file a motion to dismiss, a declaration in support, and three exhibits to the motion. The memorandum and Exhibit B contain what I consider to be confidential information.

I e-file an Administrative Motion to File Under Seal as described above, attaching both redacted and unredacted versions of the memorandum and Exhibit B. I manually serve anyone who is to be served manually. I submit chambers copies; since I cannot get the PDF header on the unredacted versions of my memorandum and Exhibit B, I send the court copies of these documents without the header.

Next, I e-file the redacted version of my motion to dismiss using Civil Motions - General Dismiss, along with my declaration and Exhibits A, B (redacted), and C, and I send over chambers copies as usual.

If the Court grants my Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, my filing is complete.

If the Court denies my Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, I can either choose to e-file my documents unredacted, or I can choose not to file my documents at all.

If the Court denies my Administrative Motion to File Under Seal in part, my options are determined by the language of the judge's order; if I have questions or need clarification, I will contact the courtroom deputy for the assigned Judge by email.

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SPECIAL NOTE:

Procedures that apply when one party wishes to e-file a document that has been designated confidential by another party:

  • In addition to e-filing the Administrative Motion and required supporting documents pursuant to Civil L.R. 79-5(d), the moving party must:
    • Identify in its declaration in support of the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal the document(s), or portions thereof, that contain(s) the designated confidential material, and identify the party that has designated the material as confidential ("the Designating Party"); and
    • Serve the declaration on the Designating Party on the same day it is filed; and
    • E-file a proof of service indicating that the declaration has been served on the Designating Party.
  • Within 4 days of the filing and service of the Administrative Motion, the Designating Party must file a declaration as required by subsection 79-5(d)(1)(A) establishing that all of the designated material is sealable.
  • If the Designating Party takes no action in response to the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, and the Administrative Motion is denied, the document may be made part of the public record no earlier than 4 days, and no later than 10 days, after the motion is denied.

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Frequently Asked Questions about E-filing Under Seal

 Q1: When is the document I want to e-file under seal considered filed?

A: For the purposes of deadlines, the documents that you have e-filed as attachments to the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal are considered filed when the Motion is filed. However, as a matter of best practices, it is suggested that, if possible, you e-file your Administrative Motion (and the attached documents) well in advance of any deadlines so as to give the court time to consider your Motion.

Q2: I'm trying to prepare Chambers Copies, but I can't access the documents. How do I get the ECF headers on my document?

A: You can't. ECF does not permit the public to view under seal documents. Instead, submit your unredacted versions without the headers as Chambers Copies.

Q3: I have many documents I want to attach to my Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, but they won't all fit. How can I file the rest of these documents securely?

A:  Use Civil Motions and Related Filings Other Supporting Documents Attachments to Administrative Motion to File Under Seal to upload the rest of your documents; this event will prompt you to seal your documents as described above.