Caplan v. WP Company LLC v. District of Columbia

June 15, 2015

The Washington Post sought access to a sealed summary judgment motion and a sealed opinion granting summary judgment in a civil case in the District of Columbia Superior Court. The civil case was filed by a couple whose children were removed from their home on suspicion of child abuse. A family court later found no reason to suspect abuse, and the children were returned to the home. The Caplans later sued the Family Services Agency for negligent and malicious conduct, and the court denied public access to the case. The Post appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

The Reporters Committee with 19 other media groups argued that the Superior Court's denial of the Post's motion violated both the common law and First Amendment rights of access. The brief emphasized the wide consensus that the First Amendment right of access applies to civil filings generally, and dispositive motions and judicial opinions specifically, urging the D.C. Court of Appeals to apply a First Amendment standard.