Company Doe v. Public Citizen, No. 12-2209 (4th Cir. 2014)

Annotate this Case
Justia Opinion Summary

Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a "report of harm" that attributed the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court's sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. The court held that Consumer Groups' notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups' motion to intervene, and, therefore, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention; Consumer Groups were able to seek appellate review of the district court's orders because they met the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have independent Article III standing to challenge the orders; and, on the merits, the district court's sealing order violated the public's right of access under the First Amendment and the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions.

Download PDF
PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 12-2209 COMPANY DOE, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. PUBLIC CITIZEN; CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA; CONSUMERS UNION, Parties-in-Interest Appellants, and INEZ TENENBAUM, in her official capacity as Chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission; CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION, Defendants. -----------------------------AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION; AARP; ADVANCE PUBLICATIONS, INCORPORATED; BLOOMBERG, INCORPORATED; DOW JONES AND COMPANY, INCORPORATED; GANNETT COMPANY, INCORPORATED; THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY; NPR, INCORPORATED; THE REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS; TRIBUNE COMPANY; WP COMPANY LLC, d/b/a The Washington Post, Amici Supporting Appellants, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS; THE AMERICAN COATINGS ASSOCIATION; THE ASSOCIATION OF HOME APPLIANCE MANUFACTURERS; THE MANUFACTURERS ALLIANCE FOR PRODUCTIVITY AND INNOVATION; THE RECREATIONAL OFF HIGHWAY VEHICLE ASSOCIATION; THE SPECIALTY VEHICLE INSTITUTE OF AMERICA, Amici Supporting Appellee. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Alexander Williams, Jr., District Judge. (8:11-cv-02958-AW) Argued: October 31, 2013 Before FLOYD, Circuit Circuit Judges. Judge, Decided: and HAMILTON and April 16, 2014 DAVIS, Senior Vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Floyd wrote the opinion, in which Senior Judge Davis joined. Senior Judge Hamilton wrote a separate opinion concurring in the judgment. ARGUED: Scott Matthew Michelman, PUBLIC CITIZEN LITIGATION GROUP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Baruch Abraham Fellner, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Allison M. Zieve, Julie A. Murray, PUBLIC CITIZEN LITIGATION GROUP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Thomas M. Johnson, Jr., Amanda C. Machin, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. Ben Wizner, Brian M. Hauss, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, New York, New York, for Amicus Curiae American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. Julie Nepveu, AARP FOUNDATION LITIGATION, Michael Schuster, AARP, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae AARP. Cary Silverman, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae National Association of Manufacturers, American Coatings Association, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. Leslie Moylan, Washington, D.C., Robert D. Balin, Edward J. Davis, Eric Feder, DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE LLP, New York, New York, for Amici Curiae Media Organizations. 2 FLOYD, Circuit Judge: This appeal presents numerous issues relating to transparency in federal courts and the public s constitutional and common-law documents. to the of access to judicial records and The plaintiff in the underlying proceedings, known public Administrative Consumer rights only as Company Procedure Product Act Safety to Doe, filed enjoin Commission suit the (the under United the States Commission) from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a report of harm that attributes the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. The case generated ample media attention, for this was the first legal challenge to the implementation of the Commission s newly minted database mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Regrettably, the district court allowed the entire litigation from filing to judgment to occur behind closed doors, keeping all documents filed in the case under seal, not even reflected on the public docket. As a result, neither the press nor the public was able to monitor the litigation as it unfolded. Three months after the district court entered judgment in favor of Company Doe and enjoined the Commission from publishing the challenged report in its online database, the court released its memorandum opinion on the public docket with sweeping redactions to virtually all of the facts, expert testimony, and 3 evidence supporting its decision. Much of the record including the pleadings, the briefing pertaining to Company Doe s motion for injunctive relief, the Commission s motion to dismiss, the parties cross-motions for summary judgment, and numerous Citizen, Consumer residual matters remains sealed in its entirety. Three Federation consumer of advocacy America, groups Public and Consumers Union (collectively Consumer Groups) filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court s sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. the The district court, however, neglected to rule on intervention motion before underlying judgment expired. the period to appeal the Consumer Groups therefore noted their appeal of the district court s sealing and pseudonymity orders as well as the motion to intervene. their notice of court s constructive denial of the Three months after Consumer Groups filed appeal, the district court issued an order denying Consumer Groups motion to intervene. We hold that Consumer Groups notice of appeal deprived the district motion court to of jurisdiction intervene, and, to entertain therefore, court s order denying intervention. we Consumer vacate the Groups district Although Consumer Groups were neither parties to, nor intervenors in, the underlying case before the district court, we nevertheless conclude that they 4 are able to sealing seek and appellate pseudonymity requirements for review of orders nonparty the district because appellate they court s meet standing and the have independent Article III standing to challenge the sealing and pseudonymity orders. As for the merits, we hold that the district court s sealing order violates the public s right of access under the First Amendment and that the district court abused its discretion pseudonymously. part, and in allowing Company Doe to litigate Accordingly, we vacate in part, reverse in remand to the district court with instructions to unseal the case in its entirety. I. A. A brief summary of the relevant statutory and regulatory framework provides the necessary background for this appeal. Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA or the Act) to establish more stringent safety and testing standards for manufacturers of children s products. CPSIA, Pub. L. No. 110-314, 122 Stat. 3016 (2008); 15 U.S.C. § 2051(a)(1). information, To the regulatory of Act agency enforcement enhance the public access to product required the Commission, responsible for the Act, to create 5 and the safety federal implementation maintain a and publicly accessible, Internet database about product safety. containing [r]eports of harm 15 U.S.C. § 2055a(a)(1)(A)-(C), (b)(1). The purpose of the database was to provide consumers an avenue to report safety hazards about specific consumer products and to learn of and evaluate the potential dangers posed by products that had entered the stream of commerce. See H.R. Rep. No. 110- 501, at 34 (2007). Recognizing that inaccurate or erroneous information would thwart the intended goals for the database, Congress engrafted into the statute certain misleading material. requirements that safeguards aimed at excluding The Act, for example, establishes minimum reports must meet to be included in the database and provides manufacturers the right to receive notice of a report prior to its publication. See 15 U.S.C. § 2055a. One such minimum requirement is that the harm described in the report must relat[e] to the use of the consumer product. § 2055a(b)(2)(B)(iii). Id. A manufacturer has an opportunity to object to the inclusion of information that it believes to be materially inaccurate or confidential. Commission s promulgated inaccurate information misleading, and affect a product. which reasonable is Id. § 2055a(c)(2). regulations as so define information substantial consumer s and decision 16 C.F.R. § 1102.26(a)(1). 6 that The materially is false important making as about or to the If a manufacturer submits a claim that Commission a report is substantiates materially the inaccurate manufacturer s and claim, the the Commission must either correct the inaccuracy or exclude the materially inaccurate information from the database. § 2055a(c)(4). the public, within To avoid delays in making reports available to the twenty 15 U.S.C. Commission business is days required of to publish receipt of the a report report. Id. § 2055a(c)(1), (c)(3)(A), (c)(4)(A). B. The underlying case stems from a report of harm received by the Commission concerning a from an product unidentified manufactured local by government Company agency Doe. Upon transmittal of the report, Company Doe submitted a claim that the report was materially inaccurate, asserting that the Commission should not publish the report in its online database because it contained confusing and contradictory statements that rendered meaning the of information the Act and materially the inaccurate Commission s within regulations. the The Commission attempted to correct the report by redacting certain information that it deemed materially inaccurate, but Company Doe insisted that the report remained unpublishable due to the material inaccuracies. The Commission proposed multiple versions of the report in its endeavor to purge the materially 7 inaccurate information, but the parties ultimately reached an impasse as to whether the report satisfied criteria to be included in the database. the requisite When the Commission signaled its intent to publish the report, Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from including the report of harm in the database. Company Doe filed with its complaint a motion to litigate the case under seal and to proceed under a pseudonym. It claimed that exposing the content of the challenged report of harm through court documents would vitiate the very relief it sought to obtain by filing suit. Disclosure of its identity as well as any facts that would enable the public to link its product to the harm alleged in the report, Company Doe argued, would have the same effect as disclosure via the Commission s database. The district court s local rules prohibited the court from ruling on the motion to seal for at least fourteen days to allow interested parties to object to the sealing request. rules also required that the resolution of the sealing motion. suit remain sealed The local pending Both Consumer Groups and the Commission filed objections to the motion to seal, maintaining that Company Doe s sealing request was overbroad and, if countenanced, would violate the public right of access to court documents. Although they were 8 not named parties to the underlying litigation, Consumer Groups also filed a motion to unseal the briefing related to Company Doe s sealing motion. Despite the objections to Company Doe s sealing motion, the district court failed to rule on the motion for nine months, at which time it issued its memorandum opinion adjudicating the parties summary judgment motions. As a result, the entire litigation which included Company Doe s motion for a preliminary injunction, the Commission s motion to dismiss, Company Doe s motion to amend the complaint, the parties motions for summary judgment, and oral argument occurred under seal. On the parties cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court entered judgment in favor of Company Doe. In doing so, the court found that the challenged report of harm failed to describe a harm or risk relating to the use of Company Doe s product as required by the Act and that the information contained in the report was materially inaccurate. It therefore concluded that the Commission s decision to publish the report of harm was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. The district court further found that publication of the materially inaccurate report risked harm to Company Doe s reputational and pecuniary interests. Accordingly, the court permanently enjoined the Commission from publishing the report in the online database. 9 After adjudicating the merits of Company Doe s claims, the district court addressed Company Doe s motion to seal and to proceed under presumption determined a pseudonym. favoring public that reputational Company and The access Doe s fiscal court to judicial interest health acknowledged the outweighed but preserving in documents its the public s abstract interest in obtaining information about the lawsuit. The district court reasoned that permanent sealing of certain documents and pseudonymity were necessary because drawing public attention to the report was the consequence Company Doe sought to avoid in bringing its suit. To hold otherwise, the district court believed, would reduce [Company Doe s] First Amendment interest in petitioning the Court for redress of its grievance to a Hobson s choice, a figurative fork that would fly in the face of fundamental notions of fairness. Accordingly, the court denied Consumer Groups motion to unseal, overruled their objections to Company Doe s sealing motion, and granted Company Doe s motion to Recognizing proceed under a pseudonym. that the public retained some residual interest in accessing its memorandum opinion and that the First Amendment public right of access likely attached to some of the documents filed in the litigation, the district court refused to seal the entire case. Instead, it ordered Company Doe to propose redactions to information that, if disclosed, would harm 10 Company Doe s reputation, explaining that Company Doe was in the best position to determine what level of redaction [would] suffice to balance the competing interests. . . . The court noted that it prognosticated the propriety of heavy redactions and even wholesale sealing of certain records, documents, and evidence filed in the proceedings. Company Doe thereafter filed a response to the district court s order and proposed redactions to the court s memorandum opinion as well as other documents filed in the litigation. The Commission objected to Company Doe s redactions as overbroad and submitted redactions of its own. After considering the parties submissions, the district court adopted the redactions proposed by Company Doe and rejected the Commission s redactions, citing concern that the public would be able to uncover Company Doe s identity and link Company Doe to the challenged report. Three months after the district court entered judgment in favor of Company Doe, the court released its memorandum opinion on the public docket with significant redactions to its analysis, the underlying facts, and the expert opinion testimony upon which its conclusions relied. As noted above, numerous documents remain completely sealed, not even reflected on the public docket. 11 C. On August 7, 2012, seven days after the district court issued its opinion granting Company Doe s motion for summary judgment, partially granting the motion to seal, and granting Company Doe s motion to proceed under a pseudonym, Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing orders. motion the district court s sealing and pseudonymity The district court failed to rule on the intervention before expired, the causing period to Consumer appeal Groups to the underlying appeal the judgment constructive denial of their motion to intervene as well as the court s sealing and pseudonymity rulings. The Commission filed a notice of appeal of the district court s adverse judgment. On October 9, 2012, the district court issued a nunc pro tunc order granting Consumer Groups motion to intervene, noting that Company thereafter Doe did requested not oppose that the the motion. district Company modify court Doe its October 9 order to reflect that its consent to Consumer Groups intervention hinged upon the continuance of a case or controversy between the original parties and that it might wish to object to the motion in the event the Commission abandoned its appeal. for The district court approved Company Doe s request clarification, conditioned upon stating Company that Doe s 12 its lack October of 9 opposition order was and that Company Doe could file a motion asking the court to reconsider its previous order granting the motion to intervene in the event that it subsequently desired to oppose the intervention motion. On December 7, 2012, the Commission withdrew its appeal of the district court s judgment, and Company Doe promptly moved for the district court to reconsider its October 9 order. On January 14, 2013, more than three months after Consumer Groups filed their notice of appeal, the district court granted Company Doe s motion to reconsider and revoked Consumer Groups intervention, concluding that intervention was improper because the underlying merits of the dispute and the sealing orders were inextricably intertwined, and, therefore, Consumer Groups objections to the sealing order became moot when the district court enjoined the Commission from including the report in its online database. On January 16, 2013, Consumer Groups filed an amended notice of appeal encompassing the district court s January 14 order as well as the district court s rulings on Company Doe s motions to seal and to proceed under a pseudonym. Company Doe subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. II. Before proceeding to the merits of Consumer Groups arguments, we first must address several threshold issues that 13 threaten our power to entertain this appeal. dismiss Consumer Consumer Groups district court s (1) they were underlying Groups are appeal, unable sealing neither action, and to and parties (2) Company seek In its motion to Doe appellate pseudonymity to, they maintains nor lack review rulings intervenors Article III that of the because in, the standing. Consumer Groups counter that they are proper appellants because the district court abused its discretion in denying their motion to intervene or, alternatively, because they requirements for nonparty appellate standing. satisfy the Consumer Groups further argue that the denial of access to documents filed in the proceedings below is a concrete injury sufficient to make their claims on appeal justiciable. A prior motions deferred ruling on the motion to the merits panel. panel For the reasons set forth below, we reject Company Doe s arguments and deny its motion to dismiss the appeal. A. As a general rule, only named parties to the case in the district court and those permitted to intervene may appeal an adverse order or judgment. 304 (1988) (per curiam). See Marino v. Ortiz, 484 U.S. 301, Indeed, it is typically only parties who are bound by a judgment and sufficiently aggrieved by it who possess constitutional and prudential standing to seek appellate 14 review of the district court s decision. See Newberry v. Davison Chem. Co., 65 F.2d 724, 729 (4th Cir. 1933) ( [I]t is only a party affected by an order or decree who may appeal from it. ). party In this case, however, we have no appeal from a named or successful chairwoman were intervenor. the only The and its party-defendants named Commission to the underlying proceedings, and they abandoned their appeal of the district court s judgment in favor of Company Doe. Although Consumer Groups sought intervention before the district court, the court denied the motion to intervene. Thus, because Consumer Groups were neither parties to, nor intervenors in, the proceedings before the district court, Company Doe argues that no case or controversy exists and that we lack authority to hear Consumer Groups challenge to the district court s sealing and pseudonymity orders. Whether Consumer Groups may appeal the sealing and pseudonymity orders rests, in part, upon the propriety of the district court s denial of Consumer Groups motion to intervene. That is, Consumer Groups have standing to appeal the denial of their intervention motion, see Hill v. W. Elec. Co., 672 F.2d 381, 385-86 (4th Cir. 1982), and if we conclude the district court erred in its decision to deny intervention, then Consumer Groups newfound intervenor status in light of our holding would supply an ongoing, adversarial 15 case or controversy, thereby allowing us to review district court s Consumer sealing and Groups pseudonymity challenges rulings, to see the Izumi Seimitsu Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha v. U.S. Phillips Corp., 510 U.S. 27, 34 (1993) (per curiam) (dismissing writ of certiorari as improvidently granted but explaining that, if the Supreme Court reversed the lower court s denial of the motion to intervene, the Court could address the merits of the question on which [it] . . . granted certiorari ); see also Ross v. Marshall, 426 F.3d 745, 761 & n.68 (5th Cir. 2005) (reversing denial of intervention motion and entertaining the merits of intervenors claims on appeal); Crawford v. Equifax Payment Servs., Inc., 201 F.3d 877, 879, 881-82 (7th Cir. 2000) (same). We therefore turn to the district court s order denying Consumer Groups motion to intervene, first considering whether the district court had authority to rule on the motion at all. 1. Consumer Groups filed their motion to intervene on August 7, 2012, seven days after the district court entered judgment in favor of Company Doe. As noted above, the district court failed to rule on the motion before the period to appeal the underlying judgment expired. After Consumer Groups filed their notice of appeal, the district court undertook a series of actions on the intervention motion, which had the purported effect of first 16 granting, then conditionally granting, the motion on January 14, 2013. January 14 order denying and ultimately denying It is the district court s intervention that is before us on review. Generally, a timely filed notice of appeal transfers jurisdiction of a case to the court of appeals and strips a district court of jurisdiction to rule on any matters involved in the appeal. See Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc. Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982) (per curiam). This rule fosters judicial economy and guards against the confusion and inefficiency that would result if two courts simultaneously were considering the same issues. See 20 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore s Federal Practice § 3902.1 (3d ed. 2010). We have recognized limited exceptions to the general rule that permit district courts to take subsequent action on matters that are collateral to the appeal, Langham-Hill Petroleum Inc. v. S. Fuels Co., 813 F.2d 1327, 1330-31 (4th Cir. 1987), or to take action that aids the appellate process, Grand Jury Proceedings Under Seal v. United States, 947 F.2d 1188, 1190 (4th Cir. 1991). As our case law amply demonstrates, however, these exceptions are confined to a narrow class of actions that promote judicial efficiency and facilitate the division of labor between trial and appellate courts. See, e.g., Lytle v. Griffith, 240 F.3d 404, 407 n.2 (4th Cir. 2001) (concluding that the district court s limited 17 modification of an injunction appropriately aided in th[e] appeal by relieving [the court] from considering the substance of an issue begotten merely from imprecise wording in the injunction ); Fobian v. Storage Tech. Corp., 164 F.3d 887, 890 (4th Cir. 1999) (holding that a district court is authorized, under the in aid of appeal exception, to entertain a Rule 60(b) motion after a party appeals the district court s judgment); Grand Jury Proceedings Under Seal, 947 F.2d at 1190 (holding that the district court retained jurisdiction to memorialize its oral opinions soon after a decision was rendered). Here, the district court found that it had authority, under the in aid of appeal exception, to act on the intervention motion after Consumer Groups noticed their appeal, a finding neither Consumer Groups nor Company Doe directly challenges on appeal. district Notwithstanding court s the parties jurisdictional acquiescence determination, we to the have an independent obligation to address a lower court s jurisdiction to issue a ruling we are reviewing on appeal. See Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 73 (1997); Stephens v. Cnty. of Albemarle, 524 F.3d 485, 490 (4th Cir. 2008). Whether a district court retains jurisdiction to rule on a motion to intervene following a notice of appeal is a matter of first impression in this Circuit. circuits that have confronted 18 The majority of our sister this issue have applied the general jurisdiction-stripping rule to hold that an effective notice of appeal deprives a district court of authority to entertain a motion to intervene after the court of appeals has assumed jurisdiction over the underlying matter. See Taylor v. KeyCorp, 680 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2012); Drywall Tapers & Pointers of Greater N.Y., Local Union 1974 v. Natasi & Assocs. Inc., 488 F.3d 88, 94-95 (2d Cir. 2007); Roe v. Town of Highland, 909 F.2d 1097, 1100 (7th Cir. 1990); Nicol v. Gulf Fleet Supply Vessels, Inc., 743 F.2d 298, 299 (5th Cir. 1984). We see no reason why an intervention motion should be excepted from the general rule depriving the district court of authority to rule on matters once the case is before the court of appeals. Accordingly, we join the majority of our sister circuits and hold that an effective notice of appeal divests a district court of jurisdiction to entertain an intervention motion. We further conclude that the in aid of appeal exception is inapposite in this case. district court s intervene, the After Consumer Groups appealed the constructive court undertook Groups intervention motion. denial multiple of their actions motion on to Consumer The district court s final ruling revoking its prior grant of intervention came three months after Consumer Groups noted their filed their opening brief. appeal and one month after they A district court does not act in aid of the appeal when it alter[s] the status of the case as it 19 rests before the court of appeals. Coastal Corp. v. Tx. E. Corp., 869 F.2d 817, 820 (5th Cir. 1989); see also Fobian, 164 F.3d at 890-91 (concluding that a district court s grant of Rule 60(b) relief after an appeal of the underlying judgment has been taken cannot be considered in furtherance of the appeal because two courts would be exercising jurisdiction over the same matter Consumer at the Groups same motion time ). to By continuing intervene after to act we on assumed jurisdiction over the matter and briefing had commenced, the district court purported to change the status of the appeal. In doing so, it acted outside its authority. Thus, we hold that Consumer Groups notice of appeal deprived the district court of authority to rule on Consumer Groups motion to intervene. Accordingly, we vacate the district court s January 14 order denying intervention on the merits. 534, 541 See Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. (1986) ( When the lower federal court lacks jurisdiction, we have jurisdiction on appeal, not of the merits but merely for the purpose of correcting the error of the lower court in entertaining the suit. (brackets omitted) United States v. Corrick, 298 U.S. 435, 440 (1936))). 20 (quoting 2. Because the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups motion to intervene, we next must address whether Consumer Groups, as nonparties, may appeal the district court s sealing maintain they and are pseudonymity entitled to orders. pursue Consumer this appeal Groups in the Commission s absence because they satisfy the requirements for nonparty appellate standing announced in Kenny v. Quigg, 820 F.2d 665 (4th Cir. 1987). The rule that only original parties and intervenors to the action before the district court may appeal an adverse judgment is not absolute. We have recognized an exception to the general rule that permits a nonparty to appeal a district court s order or judgment when the appellant (1) possessed an interest in the cause litigated before the district court and (2) participated in the proceedings actively enough to make him privy to the record. Kenny, 820 F.2d at 668. To satisfy the requirements for nonparty appellate standing, the appellant must have some cognizable interest that is affected by the district court s judgment or order. (4th Cir. 1999). individuals who See Davis v. Scott, 176 F.3d 805, 807-08 By restricting nonparty appeals to only those sufficiently participate in the proceedings before the district court and have some concrete interest that is adversely affected by the trial court s judgment or ruling, 21 we address the prudential standing concerns that arise when a nonparty seeks to appeal from a district court s judgment. See Castillo v. Cameron Cnty., 238 F.3d 339, 349 & n.16 (5th Cir. 2001); see also (prudential prohibition Allen standing on a v. Wright, 468 requirements litigant s U.S. 737, include raising another 751 the (1984) general person s legal rights, the rule barring adjudication of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches, and the requirement that a plaintiff s complaint fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked ). This Court first addressed and applied the standard for nonparty appellate standing in Kenny. Labor filed suit against an There, the Secretary of employee stock-ownership plan, alleging the sale of stock to the plan s trustees violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. 666-67. 820 F.2d at Kenny, who was a participant in the plan but not a named party to the proceedings before the district court, filed objections to the plan s motion to approve the sale of stock. Id. at 667-68. When the district court overruled her objections and approved the proposed sale, only Kenny appealed. 668. Id. at We permitted Kenny to appeal in the Department of Labor s absence, noting proceedings that below by she participated filing her own significantly memorandum in the opposing approval of the sale, which the district court fully considered 22 and rejected. Id. We also found that Kenny s financial stake in the plan gave her an interest in the proceedings sufficient to confer nonparty appellate standing. Id. Consumer Groups involvement in the underlying proceedings is no different. They participated in the case below by objecting, under the district court s local rules, to Company Doe s motions to seal and to proceed filing their own motion to unseal. not sought formal intervention to pseudonymously and by Although Consumer Groups had challenge the sealing and pseudonymity requests prior to entry of summary judgment, the district court fully considered, and overruled, Consumer Groups objections when addressing the merits of Company Doe s motion to seal and to proceed under a pseudonym. As in Kenny, Consumer Groups participation before the district court as it pertains to the issues of sealing and pseudonymity was akin to party participation. Company Doe suggests that Consumer Groups involvement in the proceedings below falls short of the participation necessary to establish nonparty appellate standing because they failed to substantially participate in the underlying litigation on the merits. Consumer Groups, however, do not challenge the district court s entry of judgment in favor of Company Doe. Instead, they appeal only the district court s rulings on sealing and pseudonymity, which are the very issues they contested below and 23 were affected by. Consumer Groups participated in the proceedings before the district court to the greatest extent possible given that the Numerous courts have litigation found proceeded participation in similar secret. to that Consumer Groups adequate to permit a nonparty to appeal. e.g., Kaplan v. Rand, 192 F.3d 60, 66-67 (2d of See, Cir. 1999) (permitting nonparty shareholder to appeal award of legal fees to counsel for shareholder court); stockholder s objected Commodity to the Futures derivative fee award Trading action before Comm n v. because the district Topworth Int l, Ltd., 205 F.3d 1107, 1113-14 (9th Cir. 1999) (finding sufficient participation based upon nonparty s formal objection to receiver s proposed distribution plan); Binker v. Pennsylvania, 977 F.2d 738, appellants asserting 745 (3d sufficiently objections Cir. 1992) participated to settlement (concluding in that proceedings agreement). nonparty below We by conclude that, by lodging objections to Company Doe s motions to seal and to proceed under a pseudonym, and by filing their own motion to unseal, Consumer proceedings before Groups the sufficiently district court participated to appeal the in the court s orders dismissing their objections and permitting the case to be litigated under seal and pseudonymously. Having determined that Consumer Groups satisfy the first Kenny prong, we turn next to the second requirement for nonparty 24 appellate standing, asking whether a nonparty who claims a right of access to judicial documents and objects to a sealing motion and request to proceed under a pseudonym possesses an interest in the underlying proceedings sufficient to appeal a district court s order overruling the nonparty s objections and sealing portions of the record. We conclude that the presumptive right of access to judicial documents and materials under the First Amendment and common law gives Consumer Groups an interest in the underlying litigation such that they may appeal the district court s orders disregarding their objections and depriving them of access to the information they claim a right to obtain. The district court s rejection of Consumer Groups proffered objections to the sealing motion and pseudonymity request is tantamount to an adjudication of their rights of access. See United States v. Antar, 38 F.3d 1348, 1363 (3d Cir. 1994) ( [T]he district judge appears not to have recognized that maintaining the transcripts under seal, requiring though a passive justification act, under was the an First active decision Amendment. ). Significantly, Consumer Groups are bound by the district court s denial of access and concomitant determination of their rights. To deprive Consumer Groups of the right to appeal the district court s adverse possible avenue ruling for on them their to objections vindicate 25 their would leave asserted no First Amendment and common-law rights of access, which are interests that diverge from those of the named parties who had access to the documents filed in the litigation as well as the identity of Company Doe. Cf. United States v. Hickey, 185 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1999) (rejecting the proposition that a named party has standing to vindicate the public s right of access). appealing the determinations district is the court s only way sealing Consumer and Thus, pseudonymity Groups can protect themselves from being bound by the adjudication of their rights of access that they believe were violated. Because the orders from which Consumer Groups appeal deprive Consumer Groups of the very information they claim a right to inspect, their appeal falls squarely within the exception allowing nonparties to seek appellate review when necessary to preserve their rights. See Davis, 176 F.3d at 808. Company Doe argues that Consumer Groups lack the requisite interest to appeal the district court s sealing order because the local rule under which Consumer Groups submitted objections serves only as a public notice provision and does not confer party status that would permit a third party district court s rejection of its objections. to appeal a True enough, but a nonparty s right to seek appellate review of an order that disposes of his rights and by which he is bound does not depend upon some explicit authorization 26 to appeal. In Delvin v. Scardelletti, for unnamed member class example, who the timely Supreme Court objects to a held that proposed an class action settlement may appeal the district court s approval of the settlement without seeking underlying proceedings. the Court concluded formal intervention 536 U.S. 1, 14 (2002). that the petitioner was in the In doing so, able to seek appellate review of the district court s order disregarding his objections because he (1) participated in the district court proceedings, (2) was bound by the court s order overruling his submitted objections, and (3) possessed interests that would not be adequately represented on appeal by the named parties. id. at 7-9. See Although no federal statute or procedural rule directly addresses who may appeal from approval of class action settlements, the Court observed, the right to appeal from an action that finally disposes of one s rights has a statutory basis. Id. at 13 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1291 ( The courts of appeals . . . shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of . . . . )). the district courts of the United States As in Delvin, the district court s order overruling Consumer Groups objections and granting Company Doe s motions to seal decision and with to proceed respect to pseudonymously Consumer constitutes Groups sufficient to trigger their right to appeal. rights a of final access We therefore hold that, because they objected to Company Doe s motion to seal and 27 to proceed under a pseudonym, Consumer Groups may appeal the district court s adverse sealing and pseudonymity rulings without first intervening in the underlying proceedings. B. We Company turn now Doe s Consumer to lack review pseudonymity the motion Groups appellate to threshold dismiss. standing of orders. final the issue Company under contends Article district Specifically, Doe III court s Company presented to by that pursue sealing and argues that Doe Consumer Groups lack a concrete and particular injury necessary to confer abandoned Article its III appeal of standing. the Because district the court s Commission judgment and Consumer Groups have no judicially cognizable injury of their own, Company Doe asserts that no justiciable case or controversy exists. To satisfy the requirements for constitutional standing, the party invoking federal court jurisdiction must demonstrate that the conduct of which he complains has caused him to suffer an injury in fact that a favorable judgment will address. Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 12 (2004) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). Article III standing must be met by persons seeking appellate review, just as it must be met by persons appearing in 28 courts of first instance. U.S. at 64. Arizonans for Official English, 520 Accordingly, an intervenor may not pursue an appeal in the absence of an original party on whose side intervention was permitted unless the intervenor independently satisfies the requirements for constitutional standing. Id. at 65. This Court has previously permitted news organizations to intervene in actions in which they were not otherwise parties to challenge a district court s sealing order. See Stone v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 172, 178 (4th Cir. 1988); Rushford v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 252-54 (4th Cir. 1988). interest in In the those cases, sealed the judicial news organizations documents and had an materials sufficient to satisfy the constitutional standing requirements of injury, causation, and redressability. They were bound by the district court s sealing orders, and insofar as they were denied access to judicial documents that they claimed a right to obtain, they determination. were aggrieved by the district court s sealing A favorable decision on appeal would ameliorate their injuries by providing them access to the records that they sought. In sum, it was the news organizations failure to obtain information information, which in their view, they had a right to access under the common law or the Constitution that supplied the case or controversy necessary for the intervenors to secure appellate review of a district court s sealing orders. 29 Company Doe attempts to distinguish the above cases on the ground that they involved media parties that Amendment right to inform public discourse. had a First We see no reason why the standing of news media to seek appellate review of a district court s sealing order should member of the general public. two dimensions. differ from that of a The public right of access has First, the right protects the public s ability to oversee and monitor the workings of the Judicial Branch. See Columbus-Am. Discovery Grp. v. Atl. Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 291, 303 (4th Cir. 2000) ( Publicity of such records, of course, is necessary in the long run so that the public can judge the product of the courts in a given case. ); see also Pepsico, Inc. v. Redmond, 46 F.3d 29, 31 (7th Cir. 1995) (Easterbrook, J., in chambers) ( Opinions are not the litigants property. They belong to the public, which underwrites the judicial system that produces them. ). Second, public access to the courts promotes the institutional integrity of the Judicial Branch. See United States v. Cianfrani, 573 F.2d 835, 851 (3d Cir. 1978) ( Public confidence [in the judiciary] cannot long be maintained where important judicial decisions are made behind closed doors and then announced record view. ). in supporting conclusive the terms court s to decision the public, sealed with from the public In light of the interests served by the public right of access, we have recognized that the rights of the news media 30 . . . are coextensive with and do not exceed those rights of members of the public in general. 727 F.2d 1320, 1322 (4th Cir. In re Greensboro News Co., 1984); see also Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 684 (1972) ( [T]he First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally. ). Instead, the right of access is widely shared among the press and the general public alike, such that anyone who seeks and is denied access to judicial records sustains an injury. Article III standing demands that a litigant demonstrate an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 (quoting Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155 (1990)). Standing, the Supreme Court has instructed, is not to be placed in the hands of concerned bystanders, who will use it simply as a vehicle of the vindication of value interests. Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 62 (1986) (quoting United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 687 (1973)). Thus, a mere generalized grievance large shared by the public at is insufficient establish a justiciable case or controversy. to See Lujan, 504 U.S. at 573-74. That an injury may be widely automatically render it unsuitable shared, for however, Article III does not standing. Even a widely shared interest, where sufficiently concrete, may 31 count as an injury in fact. (1998). The plaintiff suffers information Supreme that an Court consistently Article must be FEC v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11, 24 III has injury disclosed held when pursuant he to that is a a denied statute, notwithstanding [t]he fact that other citizens or groups of citizens might make demanding disclosure. the same complaint after unsuccessfully Pub. Citizen v. U.S. Dep t of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 449-50 (1989); see also Akins, 524 U.S. at 21-25 (holding that a group of voters had a concrete injury based upon their inability to receive certain donor and campaign-related information Coleman, from 455 deprivation an U.S. of organization); 363, 373-74 information about Havens Realty Corp. (1982) (concluding housing availability sufficient to constitute an Article III injury). v. that was What each of these cases has in common is that the plaintiffs (1) alleged a right of disclosure; (2) petitioned for access to the concealed information; and (3) were denied the material that they claimed a right to obtain. by a large Their informational interests, though shared segment of the citizenry, became sufficiently concrete to confer Article III standing when they sought and were denied access to the information that they claimed a right to inspect. Although Consumer Groups right of access stems not from a statute but from the Constitution and common law, the nature of 32 their alleged injury is indistinguishable from the informational harm suffered by the plaintiffs in the above cases. Consumer Groups injury is formed by their inability to access judicial documents and materials filed in the proceedings below, information that they contend they have a right to obtain and inspect under the law. Because the public right of access under the First Amendment and common law protects individuals from the very harm suffered by Consumer Groups, their injury transcends a mere abstract injury such as a common concern for obedience to law. L. Singer & Sons v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 311 U.S. 295, 303 (1940). Consumer Groups are public interest organizations that advocate directly on the issues to which the underlying litigation and the sealed materials relate. By seeking, and having been denied access to, documents they allege a right to inspect, Consumer Groups have a direct stake in having a concrete injury redressed. One final point merits our attention. Company Doe argues that, because it prevailed on its claims before the district court and secured an injunction barring the Commission from publishing the challenged report of harm, Consumer Groups cannot stand in the Commission s shoes and seek appellate review of the district court s sealing order, which effectuate the district court s judgment. was necessary to In support of this contention, Company Doe directs us to Diamond v. Charles, 476 33 U.S. 54 (1986), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S. Ct. 2652 (2013). In Diamond, a pediatrician who was licensed to practice medicine in Illinois, and who was a conscientious object[or] to abortions, sought to defend the constitutionality of a state statute governing abortions after the state elected not to appeal an injunction enjoining enforcement of certain provisions of the statute. 476 U.S. at 57-58. The state Attorney General filed a letter with the Supreme Court stating that his interest in the continued proceedings was essentially co-terminous with the position on the issues set forth by the [petitioner]. at 61 (internal quotation marks omitted). held that appeal the the petitioner lower lacked court s The Court, however, constitutional decision Id. because standing only the to state possessed a direct stake in defending the constitutionality of its statute. judicially Id. at cognizable 65. Because interest of the petitioner own in his the had no challenged statute, he had no standing to appeal the judgment below in the absence of the state. In Hollingsworth, Id. at 71. the proponents of a ballot initiative that amended the California constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman sought to defend the law s constitutionality after the named defendants a group of state and local officials responsible 34 for enforcing California s marriage laws refused to defend the law. The Supreme because Court they had held no that the personal 133 S. Ct. at 2660. proponents stake in lacked defending standing the law s enforcement that was distinct from the general interest of every California citizen. not represent interests. the Id. at 2663. State, they Because the proponents did could not assert the State s Id. at 2664-66. Diamond and Hollingsworth illustrate that an intervenor s right to original continue party a on suit whose on appeal side in the absence intervention was of sought the is dependent upon the intervenor having an independent interest in the proceedings sufficient Article III standing. to satisfy the requirements for In both cases, the requisite injury in fact was lacking because the intervening parties did not have a direct stake statute when in defending state the officials constitutionality declined to do so. of a state Consumer Groups, by contrast, do not appeal the merits of the district court s decision to enjoin the Commission from publishing the report of harm in its online database, nor do they attempt to assert an interest that belongs only to the Commission. Their interest in the litigation is that of a third party seeking access to documents filed with the court, which is an interest entirely independent of the injury that supplied the requisite case or controversy between Company 35 Doe and the Commission. Consumer Groups have a redressable, actual injury and a personal stake sufficient to make their claims justiciable. We conclude that Consumer Groups participation before the district coupled court with adversarial on the their case issues of redressable or sealing and pseudonymity, injuries, create vis-à-vis Company controversy an ongoing, Doe, whose interests in maintaining the documents under seal are adverse to those of Consumer Groups. Thus, having determined that Consumer Groups have nonparty appellate standing and independent Article III standing to seek appellate review of the district court s sealing and pseudonymity orders, we deny Company Doe s motion to dismiss this appeal and turn next to the merits of Consumer Groups arguments. III. It is qualified filed well right in civil settled of access and that to the public judicial criminal and press documents proceedings. and See have a records Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 n.17 (1980); Nixon, 435 U.S. at 597; Media Gen. Operations, Inc. v. Buchanan, 417 F.3d 424, 428 (4th Cir. 2005). The right of public access springs from the First Amendment and the common-law tradition that court scrutiny. proceedings are presumptively open to public Va. Dep t of State Police v. Wash. Post, 386 F.3d 36 567, 575 (4th Cir. 2004). The distinction between the rights of access afforded by the common law and the First Amendment is significant, because the common law does not afford as much substantive protection to the interests of the press and the public as does the First Amendment. In re United States for an Order Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 2703, 707 F.3d 283, 290 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Va. Dep t of State Police, 386 F.3d at 575) (internal quotation marks omitted). The common-law presumptive right of access extends to all judicial documents and records, and the presumption can be rebutted only by showing that countervailing interests heavily outweigh the public interests in access. Rushford, 846 F.2d at 253. By contrast, the First Amendment secures a right of access only to particular judicial records and documents, Stone, 855 F.2d at 180, and, when it applies, access necessitated by may a be restricted compelling only government if closure interest and is the denial of access is narrowly tailored to serve that interest, In re Wash. Post Co., 807 F.2d 383, 390 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 464 U.S. 501, 510 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted)). We have cautioned district courts that the right of public access, whether arising under the First Amendment or the common law, may be abrogated only in unusual circumstances. 855 F.2d at 182. Stone, As explained above, public access promotes not 37 only the public s interest in monitoring the functioning of the courts but also the integrity of the judiciary. Am. Discovery Grp., 203 F.3d at 303. promote trustworthiness of the See Columbus- Public access serves to judicial process, to curb judicial abuses, and to provide the public with a more complete understanding of the perception of fairness. 682 (3d Cir. 1988). judicial system, including a better Littlejohn v. Bic Corp., 851 F.2d 673, As Judge Easterbrook, writing for the Seventh Circuit, stated: The political branches of government claim legitimacy by election, judges by reason. Any step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like a fiat and requires rigorous justification. Hicklin Eng g, L.C. v. Bartell, 439 F.3d 346, 348 (7th Cir. 2006). With these principles in mind, we turn to Consumer Groups arguments on appeal. A. Consumer Groups argue that the First Amendment right of access applies to all of the documents sealed by the district court and that the court erred in determining that Company Doe demonstrated a compelling interest that justified sealing the materials. Company Doe counters that the First Amendment is inapplicable to the materials filed before the district court 38 and, even if it does extend to some of the documents, Company Doe has a compelling interest sufficient to defeat the First Amendment presumptive right of access. When presented with a sealing request, our right-of-access jurisprudence requires that a district court first determine the source of the right of access with respect to each document, because only then can interests at stake. it accurately weigh the competing Va. Dep t of State Police, 386 F.3d at 576 (brackets omitted) (quoting Stone, 855 F.2d at 181 (internal quotation marks omitted)). Although the district court ordered that some of the materials be unsealed after Consumer Groups noted their appeal, our review of the record reveals that the following categories of documents remain sealed in their entireties: (1) the pleadings and attachments thereto; (2) the motions, related briefing, and exhibits supporting (i) Company Doe s motion for a preliminary injunction, (ii) the Commission s motion to dismiss, complaint, judgment; and and (iii) (iv) (3) Company the the other residual matters. on the public docket. parties amended Doe s motion to cross-motions pleadings as well amend its for summary as numerous None of these sealed documents appear Further, in addition to these materials, the district court released its memorandum opinion on the public docket with redactions to virtually all of the facts, court s analysis, and the evidence supporting its decision. 39 the 1. We begin memorandum with opinion parties summary the as district well judgment as court s its motions redactions wholesale and sealing accompanying to its of the materials. We have squarely held that the First Amendment right of access attaches to materials judgment motion. filed in connection with See Rushford, 846 F.2d at 252-53. a summary Although we have not addressed whether the First Amendment right of access extends to a judicial opinion ruling on a summary judgment motion, we have little difficulty in concluding that it does. In In re Washington Post Co., we held that the right of access under the First Amendment applied to documents filed in connection with plea and sentencing hearings in criminal cases, reasoning that the First Amendment right of access extends to materials submitted in conjunction with judicial proceedings that themselves would trigger the right to access. 807 F.2d at 390 ( Because we conclude that the more rigorous First Amendment standard should apply in this context, we hold that the First Amendment right connection with of plea access applies hearings and to documents sentencing filed in hearings in criminal cases, as well as to the hearings themselves. ). Our decision in In re Washington Post Co. recognized the right of access to documents as a necessary corollary of the capacity to attend the relevant proceedings. 40 Hartford Courant Co. v. Pellegrino, 380 F.3d 83, 93 (2d Cir. 2004). We reaffirmed our commitment to this analytical approach in Rushford, by observing that summary judgment is an adjudication that serves as a substitute for trial, 846 F.2d at 252, and therefore, the First Amendment right of access attaches to documents and materials filed in connection with a summary judgment motion, see id. at 253. The same logic dictates that the First Amendment right of access extends to judgment motion. a judicial opinion ruling on a summary The public has an interest in learning not only the evidence and records filed in connection with summary judgment proceedings but also the district court s decision ruling on a summary judgment motion and the grounds supporting its decision. oversight of outcomes they Without the access courts, produce, to judicial including would be the opinions, processes impossible. See public and Cox the Broad. Corp. v. Cohn, 420 U.S. 469, 492 (1975) ( [O]fficial records and documents open to the public are the basic data of governmental operations. ); Mueller v. Raemisch, 740 F.3d 1128, 1135-36 (7th Cir. 2014) ( Secrecy makes it difficult for the public (including the bar) to understand the grounds and motivations of a decision, why the case was brought (and fought), and what exactly was at stake in it. ); United States v. Mentzos, 462 F.3d 830, 843 n.4 (8th Cir. 2006) 41 (denying motion to file opinion under seal because decisions of the court are a matter of public record ); Union Oil Co. of Cal. v. Leavell, 220 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2000) ( [I]t should go without saying that the judge s opinions and orders belong in the public domain. ); United States v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995) (observing that public monitoring of the courts is not possible without access to . . . documents that performance of Article III functions ). are used in the Indeed, it would be anomalous to conclude that the First Amendment right of access applies to materials that formed the basis of the district court s decision ruling on a summary judgment motion but not the court s opinion Amendment right itself. of access We therefore extends not hold only that to the the First parties summary judgment motions and accompanying materials but also to a judicial decision adjudicating a summary judgment motion. 2. During the pendency of the underlying litigation, the district court allowed the entire docket sheet to remain sealed with the exception of Company Doe s motion to seal. Although the district court ultimately unsealed portions of the docket sheet, numerous entries remain hidden from public view. This Court has, in the criminal context, reversed the sealing of docket sheets as overbroad and incompatible with the 42 First Amendment presumptive right of access. See In re State- Record Co., 917 F.2d 124, 129 (4th Cir. 1990) (per curiam). In doing so, we observed: There are probably many motions and responses thereto that contain no information prejudicial to defendant, and we can not understand how the docket entry sheet could be prejudicial. However, under the terms of the orders entered in these cases, this information, harmless as it may be, has also been withheld from the public. Id. Our skepticism toward wholesale sealing of docket sheets was grounded in the commonsensical observation that most of the information contained on a docket sheet presumptively open to public inspection. has squarely sealed docket held that sheet a district violates the is that is The Eleventh Circuit court s public material maintenance and press s of a First Amendment right of access to criminal proceedings, United States v. Valenti, 987 F.2d 708, 715 (11th Cir. 1993), and the Second Circuit has extended the First Amendment right of public access to docket sheets for civil proceedings, Hartford Courant Co., 380 F.3d at 96; see also United States v. Mendoza, 698 F.3d 1303, 1307 (10th Cir. 2012) (noting that dockets are generally public documents and collecting cases). We join the Second Circuit and hold that the public and press s First Amendment qualified right of access to civil proceedings extends to docket sheets. 43 The ability of the public and press to inspect docket sheets is a critical component to providing meaningful access to civil proceedings. The docket sheet provides onlookers an overview of the court proceedings and allows them to ascertain the parties to the case, the materials that have been filed, and the trial judge s decisions. See United States Vasquez, 428 F.3d 1015, 1029 n.15 (11th Cir. 2005). v. Ochoa- Access to docket sheets therefore enhances the appearance of fairness and enlightens the public both to the procedures the district court utilized to adjudicate the claims before it and to the materials it relied upon in reaching its determinations. In this respect, docket sheets provide a kind of index to judicial proceedings and documents, and endow the public and press with the capacity to exercise their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Hartford Courant Co., 380 F.3d at 93. By sealing the entire docket sheet during the pendency of the litigation, as the district court permitted in this case, courts effectively shut out the public and the press from exercising their constitutional and common-law right of access to civil proceedings. But there is a more repugnant aspect to depriving the public and press access to docket sheets: no one can challenge closure of a document or proceeding that is itself a secret. Indeed, in this case Consumer Groups were able to challenge the sealing of only those categories of documents they 44 were able to glean from the district court s heavily redacted memorandum opinion. Because access to docket sheets is integral to providing meaningful access to civil proceedings, we hold that the public and press enjoy a presumptive right to inspect docket sheets in civil cases under the First Amendment. B. Having concluded that the public enjoys a qualified right of access under memorandum the opinion First ruling Amendment on the to the parties district court s cross-motions for summary judgment, the materials the district court relied upon in adjudicating the summary judgment motions, and the docket sheet, we next must determine whether a compelling governmental interest negates the public s presumptive right of access to these documents. Because the First Amendment guarantees the right of access to these documents, our review of the district court s sealing decision is de novo. ACLU v. Holder, 673 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 2011). The district court identified three interests that it found sufficiently compelling to defeat the First Amendment right of access: (1) Company Doe s interest in preserving its reputational and fiscal health ; (2) Company Doe s interest in ensuring the efficacy of the injunctive relief awarded by the 45 district court; and (3) Company Doe s First Amendment right to petition the courts. We address each in turn. 1. The district court surmised that disclosure of the materially inaccurate report of harm and any facts that would allow the public to link the report to Company Doe would risk injury The to Company court then Doe s economic concluded that and reputational Company Doe s interests. interest in preserving its reputational and fiscal health outweighed the public s First Amendment right of access. A corporation very well may desire that the allegations lodged against public view it to in the protect course its of litigation corporate image, be but kept the from First Amendment right of access does not yield to such an interest. The interests that courts have found sufficiently compelling to justify closure under the First Amendment include a defendant s right to a fair trial before an impartial jury, Press-Enter., Co., 464 U.S. at 510; protecting the privacy rights of trial participants such as victims or witnesses, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 607-08 (1982); and risks to national security, United States v. Aref, 533 F.3d 72, 83 (2d Cir. 2008); Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 303 F.3d 681, 705 (6th Cir. 2002). Adjudicating claims that carry the potential 46 for embarrassing or injurious revelations about a corporation s image, by contrast, are part of the day-to-day operations of federal courts. But whether in the context of products liability claims, securities litigation, employment matters, or consumer fraud cases, the public and press enjoy a presumptive right of access to civil proceedings and documents filed therein, notwithstanding the negative publicity those documents may shower upon a company. A corporation may possess a strong interest in preserving the confidentiality of its proprietary and trade-secret information, which in turn may justify partial sealing of court records. See Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598. We are unaware, however, of any case in which a court has found a company s bare compelling interest Amendment right allegation of reputational sufficient of access. to defeat Conversely, harm the to be public s every case we a First have located has reached the opposite result under the less demanding common-law standard. See, e.g., Procter & Gamble Co. v. Bankers Trust Co., 78 F.3d 219, 225 (6th Cir. 1996) ( commercial selfinterest does not to qualify as a legitimate ground for keeping documents under seal); Republic of Philippines v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., company s presumption Dep t of 949 public of F.2d 653, image access); Treasury, 663 alone Cent. 912 (3d cannot Nat l F.2d 47 Cir. 897, 1991) rebut Bank 900 of the (harm a common-law Mattoon (7th to v. Cir. U.S. 1990) (information that may impair [a corporation s] standing with its customers insufficient to justify closure); Littlejohn, 851 F.2d at 685 reputation (a corporation s is insufficient access); Wilson (11th Cir. reputation v. 1985) is desire Am. overcome Motors (per Corp., curiam) insufficient to to preserve common-law 759 ( harm outweigh F.2d [to] corporate right 1568, the common-law of 1570-71 company s right of access). In any event, it is unclear from the district court s memorandum opinion what, if any, evidence the district court relied upon to conclude that dissemination of the report of harm would injure Company Doe s reputational and pecuniary interests. The district court made no specific findings explaining how the information sealed in this case would harm Company Doe s reputation, and Company Doe does not point us to any evidence that buttresses the district court s conclusion. After scouring the record on appeal, we find no credible evidence to support Company Doe s fear that disclosure of the challenged report of harm and the facts of this case would subject it to reputational or economic injury, particularly in light of the fact that the district court s entry of judgment in vindicated the company and its product. permitted wholesale sealing of favor of Company Doe This Court has never documents based upon unsubstantiated or speculative claims of harm, let alone harm to 48 a company s reputation. Cf. Joy v. North, 692 F.2d 880, 894 (2d Cir. 1982) ( [A] naked conclusory statement that publication of the Report community will falls injure woefully the bank short of in the the industry kind of and local showing which raises even an arguable issue as to whether it may be kept under seal. ). An unsupported claim of reputational harm falls short of a compelling interest sufficient to overcome the strong First Amendment presumptive right of public access. The district court erred by concluding otherwise. 2. We also must reject the district court s conclusion that sealing was justified to safeguard the statutory right Company Doe sought to vindicate by bringing the underlying action. district court believed that blanket sealing of the The summary judgment materials and sweeping redactions to its opinion were warranted so that Company Doe would not forfeit the statutory relief it obtained after successfully showing that the report of harm was materially inaccurate and should not, under the CPSIA, be published. The relief Company Doe secured by prevailing on its claims was the right to keep the challenged report of harm removed from the online database. That remedy is distinct from the right to litigate its claims in secret and to keep all meaningful facts 49 about the litigation forever concealed from public view. Neither the CPSIA nor the Administrative Procedure Act confers upon district courts carte blanche to conduct secret proceedings, and, more importantly, the Constitution forbids it. The rooted district in appreciate contained a concern the in court s that court s the sealing the determination public determination challenged report would that of seems the harm be unable be to to information was materially inaccurate and failed to relate to Company Doe s product. The court s apprehension over the ramifications of disclosing the facts germane to this case cannot be squared with the principles of public discourse that underlie the First Amendment. Supreme Court long ago recognized, erroneous As the statement is inevitable in free debate, and . . . it must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to . . . survive. N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 271-72 (1964). We are not blind to the fact that a corporation s image or reputation may diminish by being embroiled in litigation against the government over the safety of one of its products. the nature of public litigation. That is When parties call on the courts, they must accept the openness that goes with subsidized dispute resolution officials. Union by Oil public Co. of (and Cal., publicly 220 F.3d accountable) at 568. The district court therefore erred in concluding that sealing was 50 justified to protect the rights that Company Doe sought to vindicate by bringing its suit. 3. For reasons identified substantially above, we similar cannot accept to the those we district have court s contention that allowing public access to a manufacturer s legal challenge to the Commission s inclusion of database manufacturer s would First Amendment a report impermissibly right to of harm impinge petition in the upon the the courts. Company Doe posits that, if pre-publication challenges to the Commission s online database could not be litigated without disclosing the very information the Commission seeks to publish, no manufacturer would challenge the inclusion of a report of harm in the database and risk more exposure to the challenged report through litigation. Company Doe s argument contorts the First Amendment right to petition federal courts for redress of grievances and, if embraced, would allow any company that challenged the inclusion of a report in the Commission s database to litigate its claims behind closed doors. The First Amendment right to petition the government secures meaningful access to federal courts. See Bill Johnson s Rests., Inc. v. NLRB, 461 U.S. 731, 741 (1983). It does not provide for a right 51 to petition the courts in secret. In this case, Company Doe was not denied meaningful access to the courts: it litigated its claims and obtained the relief it was entitled to under the Administrative Procedure Act. C. The sealed documents in this case implicate public concerns that are at the core of the interests protected by the right of access: the citizen s desire to keep a watchful eye on the workings of public agencies . . . [and] the operation of the government. Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598. The interest of the public and press in access to civil proceedings is at its apex when the government is a party to the litigation. Indeed, the public has a strong interest in monitoring not only functions of the courts but also the positions that its elected officials and government agencies take in litigation. See Fed. Trade Comm n v. Standard Fin. Mgmt. Corp., 830 F.2d 404, 410 (1st Cir. 1987) ( The appropriateness of making court files accessible is accentuated in cases where the government is a party: in such circumstances, the public s right to know what the executive branch is about coalesces with the concomitant citizenry to appraise the judicial branch. ). right of the In this case, the heightened public interest in disclosure is underscored by the fact that this legal action marked the first challenge to the 52 accuracy of material sought to be posted on the Commission s database. The burden compelling rested interest public access. with that Company outweighs Doe the to a presumption strong articulate of Measured against the heightened public interests presented in this case, Company Doe has failed to demonstrate any interest sufficient to defeat the public s First Amendment right of access and to justify continued sealing. court s sealing order therefore must be The district reversed. Our determination to unseal the district court s memorandum opinion and the materials related to the parties motions for summary judgment will bring to light the underlying facts, the information contained in the report of harm, and the evidence the district claims. court It relied follows upon that in its Company adjudication Doe the have would of no countervailing interest that would justify continuing to keep the remaining documents sealed. Accordingly, we instruct the district court to unseal the case in its entirety on remand. D. Before district final proceeding court s issue to Consumer pseudonymity relating to the Groups challenge ruling, we pause district court s to of the address sealing a order. When presented with a motion to seal, the law in this Circuit 53 requires a judicial procedural officer requirements: (1) to comply provide with public the following notice of the sealing request and a reasonable opportunity for the public to voice objections alternatives to to the closure; motion; and (2) (3) if consider it less determines drastic that full access is not necessary, it must state its reasons with specific findings supporting closure and its rejections of less drastic alternatives. Consumer In Groups re do Knight not Pub. quarrel Co., with 743 the F.2d at 234-35. district court s adherence to the procedures mandated by In re Knight Publishing Co. However, Consumer Groups and their supporting amici complain that the district court erred by failing to rule on the sealing motion for nine months, thereby allowing the case to remain under temporary seal pursuant to the district court s local rules. The public s interest in monitoring the work of the courts is subverted when a court delays making a determination on a sealing request while allowing litigation to proceed to judgment in secret. that the Indeed, this Court has rejected pleas by litigants public right of access can be accommodated by releasing the information after [the] trial has concluded, when all danger of prejudice will be past, reasoning that the value of openness . . . is threatened whenever immediate access to ongoing proceedings is denied, whatever provision is made for 54 later public disclosure. In re Application & Affidavit for a Search Warrant, 923 F.2d 324, 331 (4th Cir. 1991) (quoting In re Charlotte Observer, 882 F.2d 850, 856 (4th Cir. 1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because the public benefits attendant with open proceedings are compromised by delayed disclosure of documents, we take this opportunity to underscore the caution of our precedent and emphasize that the public and press generally have a contemporaneous right of access to court documents and proceedings when the right applies. Each passing day may constitute a separate and cognizable infringement of the First Amendment. Grove Fresh Distribs., Inc. v. Everfresh Juice Co., 24 F.3d 893, 897 (7th Cir. 1994) (brackets omitted) (quoting Neb. Press Ass n v. Stuart, Circuit Justice, 1975)). 423 U.S. 1327, 1329 (Blackmun, A district court therefore must make on-the-record findings required by In re Knight Publishing and act on a sealing request as expeditiously as possible. Because the district court allowed Company Doe s motion to seal to remain pending for nine months while it adjudicated the merits of Company Doe s claims, neither the public nor the press was able unfolded. to monitor the progress of the litigation as it The district court s nine-month delay in ruling on the sealing motion ostensibly was based upon its belief that the merits of Company Doe s claims were inextricably intertwined with the issues of sealing. But the public right of access 55 under the First Amendment and common law is not conditioned upon whether a litigant wins or loses. The district court erred by failing to act expeditiously on the sealing motion. IV. Last, Consumer Groups challenge the district court s decision permitting Company Doe to litigate under a pseudonym. We review a district court s abuse-of-discretion standard. pseudonymity decision under an James v. Jacobson, 6 F.3d 233, 239 (4th Cir. 1993). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require identities of the parties to a case be disclosed. that the See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) ( The title of the complaint must name all the parties . exceptional . . . ). This circumstances, Court has compelling recognized concerns that in relating to personal privacy or confidentiality may warrant some degree of anonymity in judicial proceedings, including use of a pseudonym. See Jacobson, 6 F.3d at 238. In Jacobson, we identified the following nonexclusive factors for district courts to consider when determining whether a party should be permitted to litigate pseudonymously: Whether the justification asserted by the requesting party is merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may attend any litigation or is to preserve privacy in a matter of sensitive and highly personal nature; whether identification poses a risk of 56 retaliatory physical or mental harm to the requesting party or even more critically, to innocent nonparties; the ages of the person whose privacy interests are sought to be protected; whether the action is against a governmental or private party; and, relatedly, the risk of unfairness to the opposing party from allowing an action against it to proceed anonymously. Id. We emphasized, however, that proceeding by pseudonym is a rare dispensation. Id. The district court s pseudonymity determination rested upon two of the Jacobson factors: (1) the prejudice that precluding Company Doe from proceeding pseudonymously likely would produce and (2) the risk of unfairness to the Commission in allowing the action to proceed anonymously. It found that both factors weighed in favor of allowing Company Doe to litigate its claims under a pseudonym, explaining that Company Doe initiated the underlying disclosing suit to Company prevent Doe s disclosure identity would of cause its identity; harm to the company; and the Commission would not be prejudiced by allowing Company Doe to litigate its claims pseudonymously. Pseudonymous litigation undermines access to judicial proceedings. the public s right of The public has an interest in knowing the names of the litigants, see Coe v. Cnty. of Cook, 162 F.3d 491, 498 (7th Cir. 1998), and disclosing the parties identities furthers openness Jacobson, 6 F.3d at 238. of judicial proceedings, see It is unsurprising, then, that many of 57 our sister circuits have adopted an approach for pseudonymity requests that balances a litigant s stated need for anonymity against the public s countervailing interests in full disclosure and openness. See, e.g., Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 189 (2d Cir. 2008) (holding that the plaintiff s interest in anonymity must be balanced against both the public interest in disclosure and any prejudice to the defendant ); Doe v. Porter, 370 F.3d 558, 560 (6th Cir. 2004) (framing pseudonym issue by asking substantially whether outweigh a the plaintiff s presumption privacy of open interests judicial proceedings ); Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 685 (11th Cir. 2001) (explaining that the ultimate test for whether permitting the outweighs plaintiff the a plaintiff has a customary to proceed substantial and anonymously privacy right is which constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings ); Does I Thru XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1068 (9th Cir. 2000) (holding that a party may preserve his or her anonymity in judicial proceedings in special circumstances when the party s need for anonymity outweighs prejudice to the opposing party and the public s interest in knowing the party s identity ); M.M. v. Zavaras, 139 F.3d 798, 803 (10th Cir. 1998) (adopting a test that weigh[s] the plaintiff s claimed right to privacy against the countervailing 58 public interest in [open proceedings] ). proceedings We agree that the public s interest in open must calculus. We inform therefore a district hold that, court s when a pseudonymity party seeks to litigate under a pseudonym, a district court has an independent obligation such a to ensure request anonymity by against that extraordinary balancing the the public s circumstances party s interest stated in support interest openness and in any prejudice that anonymity would pose to the opposing party. With due district factors conclude respect court s in ability weighing that the for the court the to discretion balance competing abused the we afford relevant to the Jacobson interests stake, discretion its at in permitting Company Doe to litigate under a pseudonym. we In allowing Company Doe to proceed anonymously, the district court gave no explicit consideration proceedings. underlying to the public s interest in open judicial As we have explained, the public interest in the litigation is especially Company Doe sued a federal agency. compelling given that See Doe v. Megless, 654 F.3d 404, 411 (3d Cir. 2011) (explaining that public s interest in disclosure of plaintiff s defendants were public identity officials was and heightened because government bodies (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)); Femedeer v. Haun, 227 F.3d 1244, 1246 (10th Cir. 2000) (noting that the public has an important interest in access to legal proceedings, 59 particularly those legislation ). attacking . . . properly enacted Further, unlike cases in which courts granted pseudonymity to protect privacy or confidentiality concerns, Jacobson, 6 anonymity requests claims of F.3d at harm to to 238, courts prevent a consistently speculative company s and have rejected unsubstantiated reputational or economic interests, see, e.g., Nat l Commodity & Barter Ass n v. Gibbs, 886 F.2d 1240, 1245 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam) (explaining that pseudonymity has not been permitted when only the plaintiff s economic or professional concerns are involved and collecting cases). Although the use of a fictitious name has been permitted in cases involving the disclosure of confidential information, Company Doe has made no showing that such interests were implicated in this case. Instead, Company Doe commenced this action to challenge the Commission s decision to publish a report pertaining to one of Commission s online database. Company Doe s products in the We have explained that use of a pseudonym merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may attend . . . litigation is impermissible. 238. Jacobson, 6 F.3d at Because Company Doe has failed to identify any exceptional circumstances that proceedings, we justify hold that the the use of a district pseudonym court in these abused discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. 60 its V. To recapitulate, we hold that Consumer Groups notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups motion to intervene. Accordingly, we vacate the district court s order denying intervention on the merits. We further conclude that Consumer Groups meet the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have Article III standing to seek appellate pseudonymity dismiss review orders. Consumer of the Thus, Groups we appeal. district deny court s Company Finally, sealing Doe s we and motion to that the hold district court s sealing order violated the public s right of access under the First Amendment and that the court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. We therefore reverse the district court s sealing and pseudonymity orders and remand the case with instructions for the district court to unseal the record in its entirety. VACATED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS 61 HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge, concurring in the judgment: To seal the court record below, as the district court did, the relevant First Amendment jurisprudence required Company Doe to establish, interest would at be a minimum, furthered that by a compelling granting the governmental motion to seal. Stone v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988). burden, Regrettably, Company Doe simply failed to meet this and, for this reason, I am reservations, to concur in the judgment. constrained, with I also vote to deny Company Doe s motion to dismiss this appeal. The able and conscientious faced a difficult task: in sealing the bulk district judge in this case deciding whether Company Doe s interest of the court record overcame the First Amendment interests of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the Commission), official capacity its then chairwoman (Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum), Tenenbaum and three in her consumer advocacy groups--Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumers Union (collectively the Consumer Groups). The district court believed that sealing the bulk of the record in this case from public consumption preserved, in large measure, the efficacy of the injunctive relief the district court granted Company Doe on the merits of its action against the Commission and Chairwoman Tenenbaum. The district court also understood Company Doe s interest in preserving its sound reputation and 62 fiscal health as well as its interest in availing itself of its First Amendment right to petition the courts for redress. The district court s reasoning founders for the simple reason that it misunderstood the quantum of evidence necessary to trump the First Consumer Groups. with expert Amendment rights of, for example, the Had Company Doe supported its motion to seal testimony establishing a high likelihood that denying its motion to seal would cause it to suffer substantial and irreparable economic harm, the disposition of the present appeal, in my view, would be completely different. To be sure, the equities here lie with Company Doe. Common sense tells us that some harm will befall Company Doe by the publication of the false and misleading reports at issue in this case. one In the electronically viral world that we live in today, can easily imagine how such publications could be catastrophic to Company Doe s fiscal health, allowing it never to recover. In such a world, to say that the free flow of ideas will save Company Doe is naive--the game often will be over before it begins. concerned Company about Doe, standpoint. Understandably, the district court was very the both impact from an these publications economic and would overall have on survival However, the First Amendment jurisprudence requires more than a common sense feeling about what harm may befall Company Doe. It requires concrete proof of a high likelihood of 63 substantial and irreparable economic harm. Because Company Doe failed to present such concrete proof to the district court, we are left only with a common sense feeling of what may occur, which simply is not enough to support the sealing of a record. Without a doubt, the district court s heart was in the right place, and acknowledges it is neither regrettable the that difficult the task majority confronted opinion by the district court, nor the care and genuine concern displayed by such court in ruling on the motion to seal. 64