If a lawsuit is filed and the parties decide to settle before the case gets to court, how can you know what evidence each party found to support their case? You can’t. Chances are good the defendant requested the court to seal the documents, meaning it would not be available to other lawyers, journalists, or the general public.
Over the years, attorneys for corporations have managed to convince the courts their clients need protection from the public, rather than the other way around. The courts’ willingness to go along with this has only endangered consumers who were prevented from being made aware of things like the dangers of opioids, weak car roofs, or guns with faulty triggers.
Over the years, various legislators and judges have acknowledged there are problems with the current system of sealing court documents, but so far they have been either unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes to protect consumers.
When the first rules allowing judges to seal court documents were created, they initially allowed judges to decide which documents to shield by considering them on a case-by-case basis. The rules were later broadened to include anything with the potential to embarrass or annoy a corporation. Continue reading ›