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Public Has Right to Know Identity of ‘Company Doe,’ Access Court Records in Consumer Product Database Case, Public Citizen to Tell Federal Appellate Court

Argument Thursday Before Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.

October 30, 2013

Contact: Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741; Sam Jewler (202) 588-7779

What: A company that sued to block information about its product from reaching the public should not be able to litigate as “Company Doe,” Public Citizen will tell the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Thursday.

In addition, the First Amendment requires that court documents in the case – including the judicial decision itself – be unsealed, Public Citizen will argue.

The case, Company Doe v. Public Citizen, is a first of its kind in several respects. First, it appears to be the first time a federal court has sealed the record in a civil case because of concern about a company’s reputation. Second, it appears to be the first time a court has allowed a company plaintiff to proceed under a fictitious name to protect its reputation. The underlying case was also the first legal challenge to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) product safety database, which was set up in 2011 as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

In July 2012, a federal district court in Greenbelt, Md., sealed from public view key facts about the lawsuit, which was filed by an unnamed company against the CPSC in an effort to keep out of the product safety database a report about the company’s product. The order sealing the case prevents the public from seeing the company’s name and relevant court findings, including parts of the court’s decision barring the CPSC from posting to its database the report of consumer injury about which the company sued.

Read more about the case and its implications on our blog.

When: 9:30 a.m. EDT Thurs., Oct. 31

Where: U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse, 1100 East Main Street, Richmond, Va.

Who: Public Citizen Attorney Scott Michelman

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