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Review of an order to unseal is unlike review of an order to seal records. When the court reviews an order to seal, the court proceeds in two stages. First the court examines the express findings of fact required by Cal. R. Ct. 243.1(d) to determine if they are supported by substantial evidence. The examination for substantial evidence is made on the basis of the entire record. Next, the court decides whether, in light of and on the basis of these findings, the trial court abused its discretion in ordering a record sealed.
In a civil class action against credit card issuers, the trial court ordered certain records to be unsealed over defendants' objection that the materials constituted proprietary trade secrets. The records included telemarketing scripts and memoranda on marketing strategies from an individual who served as a consultant for defendants. On appeal, among the arguments presented by defendants concerning the examination of an unsealing order made pursuant to Cal. R. Ct. 243.1 and Cal. R. Ct. 243.2 was the fundamental issue of the standard of review to be employed. Rules 243.1 and 243.2 established the procedures for sealing a court record that would otherwise be public, or to unseal a record previously ordered sealed.
Pursuant to Cal. R. Ct. 243.1 and Cal. R. Ct. 243.2, should the trial court have decided against the unsealing of the records?
The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court. The court held that on appeal from the order to unseal the records, the factual determinations by the trial court were to be upheld if supported by substantial evidence, and the trial court's decision had to be sustained unless it abused the discretion granted to it by Cal. Rules of Court, rule 243.1(d). The court further held that the trial court did not abuse the discretion vested in it by Cal. Rules of Court, rules 243.1 and 243.2, in deciding to unseal the records. There was substantial evidence to support findings that the documents the trial court ordered unsealed did not qualify as trade secrets either because of the subject matter, because they had already been disclosed, or because defendants had not taken reasonable efforts to protect them. Most of the documents ordered unsealed consisted of general business "know-how," and defendants refused to edit or redact the records in a way that might have satisfied some of their concerns.