Is it possible to seal/expunge a unlimited civil lawsuit in the state of CA after being dismissed as a defendant? I was a victim of identity theft when I was a student in NV. There was numerous Revolving lines opened and INC/LLCs. I already reported it and it is being taken care of however the lawsuit which occured in CA under the LLC and it had me listed ad a manager as an individual got dismissed just recently but will still show in my backgrounds checks for jobs? If so is there anyway to seal it or expunge it? I feel like a letter from the opposing attorney just isnt enough for backgroud purposes.
It is possible, but unfortunately extremely difficult to seal a civil lawsuit.
In California, motions to seal records in both civil and criminal cases are governed by California Rules of Court, Rules 2.550 et seq.
Under California law, unless confidentiality is required, court records are presumed to be open to the public. (CRC 2.550(c).) An agreement by the parties to file documents under seal is therefore insufficient. Such an arrangement “is entirely inconsistent with the mandatory requirements of rules 2.550 and 2.551 and the constitutional values informing those requirements.” (Savaglio v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc. (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 588, 600. )
In order to seal records, the court must “expressly find 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.”
California Rules of Court, Rule 2.550(d).
This rule and Rule 2.551 provide a standard and procedures for courts to use when a request is made to seal a record. The standard is based on NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV), Inc. v. Superior Court (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1178. These rules apply to civil and criminal cases. They recognize the First Amendment right of access to documents used at trial or as a basis of adjudication. The rules do not apply to records that courts must keep confidential by law. Examples of confidential records to which public access is restricted by law are records of the family conciliation court (Family Code, § 1818(b)), in forma pauperis applications (Cal. Rules of Court, rules 3.54 and 8.26), and search warrant affidavits sealed under People v. Hobbs (1994) 7 Cal.4th 948. The sealed records rules also do not apply to discovery proceedings, motions, and materials that are not used at trial or submitted to the court as a basis for adjudication. (See NBC Subsidiary, supra, 20 Cal.4th at pp. 1208-1209, fn. 25.)
Rule 2.550(d)-(e) is derived from NBC Subsidiary. That decision contains the requirements that the court, before closing a hearing or sealing a transcript, must find an "overriding interest" that supports the closure or sealing, and must make certain express findings. (Id. at pp. 1217-1218.) The decision notes that the First Amendment right of access applies to records filed in both civil and criminal cases as a basis for adjudication. (Id. at pp. 1208-1209, fn. 25.) Thus, the NBC Subsidiary test applies to the sealing of records.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
As Mr. Chen said, it is possible but very difficult. I am not sure that your situation would justify an order sealing the case.
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline