The Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington for misleading advertising of applications aimed at children. The FTC alleged that the apps were promoted as “free” but that various items within the app could be purchased by children with their parents’ money. Both the FTC and Amazon filed under seal some of the evidence on which their cross-motions for summary judgment ware based; passages in the briefs supporting summary judgment were also redacted. When the judge granted partial summary judgment for each side, while calling for further briefing on the issue of damages, he redacted significant parts of the summary judgment opinion.
Representing Georgetown Law School professor Rebecca Tushnet, whose scholarship is devoted in part to advertising issues, and Media Post Communications, which had reported on the case, Public Citizen filed a motion for leave to intervene and a motion to unseal asserting the public right of access to judicial records under the First Amendment and the common law. The motion to unseal asked that the entire summary judgment opinion be unsealed and that the sealing of the papers filed in support or in opposition to summary judgment be reconsidered in light of the unsealing of the opinion and other developments. Granting the motions in part, the judge instructed the FTC and Amazon to review the papers to determine whether to unseal material and to make specific recommendations about portions that should remain sealed. The parties then unsealed additional portions of the material, resolving the sealing issue in the case.