Obviously this isnt suffrage or civil rights, but it's an important piece of information when building a socioeconomic model of how American capitalism functions. These are the real "rational" actors in the market and we need all this information. Letting lawsuits like this settle behind closed doors for relatively small amounts of money and heavily redacted documents only serves to further obscure the truth. It doesn't take millions marching on Washington to for the truth to have value. Rather, without the truth, who will ever protest?
I understand where you are coming from but I think your line of thought here does the discussion a disservice. It's never futile to work for informing the public even just a little bit more. But it's time to stop "expecting" these lawsuits to produce crappy results -- it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
As I mentioned in my OP: one of the class advocates for the plaintiff did not accept the settlement that the lawyers on both sides had worked out. And instead of giving in to fatalism that "this is just the way these lawsuits go", he instead wrote a letter to Lucy Koh, the judge, asking her to throw out the settlement. And now she has done just that!
This quote is cheesy but good:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
(Incidentally I can't imagine you actually think Snowden had no lasting effect on the world).