April 20, 2011
On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court announced its decision in FCC v. AT&T, a case involving the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA requires federal agencies to make records and documents publicly available upon request, unless the materials sought fall within one or more exemptions created by the Act. One of these exemptions, Exemption 7(C), applies to law enforcement records that if disclosed "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." The question in this case was whether corporations have "personal privacy" for the purposes of applying Exemption 7(C).
In an opinion delivered by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held by a vote of 8-0 that the "personal privacy" protections embodied in Exemption 7(C) do not extend to corporations. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Milner v. Department of the Navy, another FOIA case. Milner concerns the range of FOIA Exemption 2, which shields from disclosure material "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency." The question in this case was whether Exemption 2 could be used to deny a FOIA request for data and maps used to help store explosives at a naval base in Washington State.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held by a vote of 8-1 that Exemption 2 did not shield the explosive-related data and maps from disclosure. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, and Sotomayor joined Justice Kagan’s opinion. Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the AT&T and Milner cases, we have Richard J. Peltz, a professor at the University of Arkansas Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.