WSJ: Federal Appeals Court Orders Unmasking of ‘Company Doe
An anonymous company that successfully fought in court to prevent a federal agency from posting online a “materially inaccurate” safety complaint about one of its products shouldnt have been allowed to litigate its dispute in secret. The decision by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel (see attached) came as it ordered the unsealing of court records in the dispute between the company – known to the public only as “Company Doe” – and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumer advocacy groups, allied with national news organizations, then asked the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia to strike down the sealing order, arguing that the publics First Amendment right to access court documents trumps the companys concerns about protecting its reputation.
Answer the following questions in your report based on the attached Wall Street Journal article and the appellate court decision:
1. What are the facts of the underlying case between the Consumer Product Safety Commission and “Company Doe”? What law is involved?
2. What are the facts of the case involving consumer advocacy groups and news organizations? What area of law is at issue? How are the cases related?
3. Why is Company Doe so concerned about the complaint becoming public information? What arguments support the companys case? What arguments are against the companys position? Which of the positions offers stronger arguments? Why?
4. How is the First Amendment involved in this case? What is the most commonly-known First Amendment right?
5. Should “reports of harm” be sealed until a determination is made as to the validity those complaints? What are the benefits, if any, of the making the allegations public? What are potential problems with doing this?