Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Date Filed: Nov. 22, 2021
Background: In 2019, Capital One bank experienced a data breach that exposed the personal and financial information of more than 100 million customers. The hack, one of the largest data breaches ever, sparked a wave of lawsuits against the company and generated lots of news headlines.
Despite the significant public interest in the litigation, many documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia have not been made available to the public, or have been made available only in heavily redacted form. In September 2021, a magistrate judge issued an order requiring many of the materials to be unsealed, but that order was later stayed before it could take effect. The stay (which Capital One and its co-defendant Amazon have characterized as a deferral of a provisional ruling) has delayed — and, for the time being, effectively denied — public access.
Our Position: The district court should lift its stay of the magistrate judge’s order unsealing certain materials associated with Capital One consumer data security breach litigation.
- The ongoing delay in unsealing denies the public’s right of access to judicial records.
- There is substantial public interest in the sealed documents.
Quote: “Public access to judicial documents is instrumental in securing the integrity of the judicial process, and unduly delaying public access contravenes the important interests that the First Amendment and common law rights of access guarantee.”
Related: Reporters Committee attorneys regularly file friend-of-the-court briefs urging state and federal courts to unseal court records so that journalists can use the materials to inform the public about newsworthy cases. Recently, the Reporters Committee and 23 media organizations asked a federal district court in New York to require states challenging Google’s digital advertising practices to file their amended complaint publicly in unredacted form, rather than under seal. A judge later ordered the state plaintiffs to file a less-redacted version of their amended complaint.