Ding Dong, The Concept of Corporate Personal Privacy is Dead!

Elena Kagan and John Roberts in front of Supre...

Image by TalkMediaNews via Flickr

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that corporations may not claim a “personal privacy” exemption when the U.S. government wants to release files involving them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The high court reversed that in an 8-0 decision. The new ninth justice, Elena Kagan, a former U.S. solicitor general, did not participate.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized that, ” ‘Personal’ ordinarily refers to individuals. We do not usually speak of personal characteristics, personal effects, personal correspondence, personal influence or personal tragedy as referring to corporations or other artificial entities.”

The chief justice acknowledged that “adjectives typically reflect the meaning of corresponding nouns but not always” and cited as examples “corn” and “corny,” and “crank” and “cranky.”

More broadly, Roberts said that when it comes to the word “personal,” little support exists, even in the law, for the notion that it refers to corporations.

He closed the decision against the telecommunications giant with a bit of levity: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”

We’ll keep the commentary coming as it emerges, as this is a major FOIA development.

More coverage here and here.

 

 

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