On Tuesday, September 28th, the Supreme Court granted the request of the FCC and the Justice Department to hear the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc., No. 09-1279 . The case involves the Freedom of Information Act (commonly known as the "FOIA"), the federal law that permits the public to request and obtain copies of records from the United States Government. In general, the law requires that federal agencies release the requested records unless they are covered by one or more of the FOIA's statutory exemptions.
The AT&T case involves FOIA Exemption 7(C). That provision exempts from mandatory public disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, when disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy." The question presented is whether Exemption 7(C)'s protection for "personal privacy" protects corporations like AT&T in addition to individuals (who clearly are covered). A federal appeals court in Philadelphia held that corporations can have protected “personal privacy” interests under Exemption 7(C). The Supreme Court agreed to take the case to review that decision.
Briefs in the case will be due the end of the year, oral argument likely will be heard early in 2011, and the Supreme Court should issue its decision by June 2011. For more background on this case, please see our post dated June 22, 2010, as well as the official webpage of the FCC’s Office of General Counsel .