Sealing and unsealing Court Records

Cal Rules of Court, rule 2.550 and Cal Rules of Court, rule 2.551 set forth the requirements for sealing and unsealing court records. Per rule 2.550(c), court records are presumed to be open unless the law requires confidentiality. The court may order a record to be filed under seal only if it expressly finds and states facts that support the order, including an overriding interest that overcomes the public's right to access of the records, a substantial probability that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed, and the lack of any less restrictive means to achieve that interest. The order must be narrowly tailored and may include only those documents (or portions of documents, if practical) that need to be under seal.

The First District has held that there is no family law exception to the rules that govern the sealing of trial court files, and that a trial court must have compelling reasons for ordering files sealed. In In re Marriage of Lechowick (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1406.


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