Public interest groups and a consumer-product manufacturer have filed their briefs in litigation pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; at issue are district court orders allowing the company to proceed under a pseudonym and sealing the docket and proceedings in its lawsuit against the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to keep a “materially inaccurate” incident report off the agency’s online database, saferproducts.gov. Company Doe v. Public Citizen, No. 12-2209 (4th Cir., filed May 10 and 13, 2013). The district court agreed with Company Doe that the incident report was materially inaccurate and thus could not be published in the database, which was established under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
As Company Doe frames the issue, “The sole question before this Court is whether outside groups may intervene post-judgment, after the underlying case has already been closed, to challenge the sealing order entered by the district court and thus publicly disclose the very same incident report that Company Doe successfully sued to exclude and, furthermore, identify the manufacturer of an innocent product.” The appellants claim that the district court erred in granting the sealing motion “on the ground that the company’s desire to avoid potentially adverse publicity overrides the public’s First Amendment and common law rights of access to court proceedings.” They also argue that permitting the company to litigate under a pseudonym to protect its business reputation constituted an abuse of discretion.