Southern v. Copeland, B255858

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSEGAL, J.
Docket NumberB255858
PartiesLAWRENCE S., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. AMANDA COPELAND, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date12 November 2015

LAWRENCE S., Plaintiff and Respondent,
AMANDA COPELAND, Defendant and Appellant.



November 12, 2015


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BS147104)

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Richard E. Rico, Judge. Reversed and remanded.

Amanda Copeland, in pro. per., for Defendant and Appellant.

No appearance for Plaintiff and Respondent.


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Amanda Copeland prevailed in an action against her for a civil restraining order. The trial court dismissed the petition against Copeland, but the court denied in part Copeland's motion to seal the file. Although the court redacted her address from the petition, Copeland argues that the court should have sealed or redacted more. We agree and reverse.


Amanda Copeland filed a limited civil action against Lawrence S. for return of a dog.1 Copeland hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on Lawrence S. to obtain evidence that Lawrence S. had been neglecting the dog. When Lawrence S. found out about the private investigator, he became angry and filed this action for a civil restraining order against Copeland.

Copeland and Lawrence S. mediated the limited civil action and reached a settlement. They agreed that Lawrence S. would return the dog to Copeland, Copeland would dismiss the limited civil action, and Lawrence S. would dismiss his petition in this action for a restraining order. Lawrence S., however, never dismissed his petition. Copeland appeared at the hearing on the petition, but Lawrence S. did not, and the court denied the petition.

On the day of the hearing, Copeland filed a motion pursuant to rule 2.550 of the California Rules of Court to seal the file in this action. Copeland stated in her supporting declaration that several years previously she had been a victim in a domestic violence case that led to restraining orders against a third party assailant to protect Copeland and her minor child. Copeland further stated: "My child and I are protected persons with the

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Secretary of State in the State of California and have been since 2010. We are members of the [S]afe at [H]ome program because we are both victims of serious domestic violence from an ex-boyfriend of mine, who has physically assaulted me many times, stalked us, and threatened us with death. I was hospitalized as a result of his assault. I remain in fear of[ ] my life and my child's life from this individual." Copeland disclosed that she is enrolled in California's "Safe at Home" confidential address program (Gov. Code, §§ 6205-6211), which protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.2 Copeland stated, "If this case is not sealed, the confidential information in it that has been made record by [Lawrence S.], maliciously and frivolously, will lead the assailant back to my family again." Copeland asked the court to seal the case file permanently.

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The trial court granted Copeland's motion in part. The minute order states: "The court redacts defendant's address from petition." Copeland filed a timely notice of appeal.3

Copeland subsequently filed a motion for a settled statement on appeal, which the trial court granted. In its settled statement, the court stated, "The court considered the request and ordered that the petition be redacted to eliminate the address of [Copeland,] which was done. As to the remainder of the petition, the court ruled that the standards for sealing records were not met. The court notes that the petition includes no other identifying information regarding [Copeland] other than her name." As will be discussed, this statement is inaccurate.

Copeland filed an objection to the settled statement. In addition to restating the arguments she made in her motion to seal, she pointed out the contact information for Lawrence S. is readily available, and that, using this information, her assailant in the domestic violence case could "easily contact" Lawrence S., who, considering his dispute with Copeland, would have little incentive not to disclose Copeland's address. The trial court overruled Copeland's objection. The court stated that the settled statement "accurately reflects what transpired in court" at the hearing on the petition and Copeland's motion to seal, and that Copeland "is attempting to insert matters that were not part of the record at the time of the original hearing."

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Pursuant to rule 2.550 of the California Rules of Court and NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1178, "trial courts may redact or seal particular documents to protect private information concerning an overriding privacy interest . . . ." (In re Marriage of Nicholas (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 1566, 1568.) Subdivision (d) of Rule 2.550 of the California Rules of Court provides: "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 overriding interest." The party seeking an order sealing court records has the burden to justify the sealing. (See McNair v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 25, 32; H.B. Fuller Co. v. Doe (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 879, 894.)

"California courts have...

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