Source: The Hill
Since this article is not long I decided to post the whole thing. Man, those SCOTUS justices have a tough job, don't they!
Supreme Court finds AT&T isn't a person
By Sara Jerome - 03/01/11 12:44 PM ET
After checking into it, the Supreme Court has concluded that AT&T is not a person.
The justices unanimously rejected an argument by AT&T in a decision handed down on Tuesday. They ruled that corporations do not meet the "personal privacy" standard in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The provision prevents the government from releasing certain documents about individuals in response to FOIA requests.
The opinion reverses a decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which came down on AT&T's side in a surprise to legal observers. AT&T had essentially argued that it has the legal status of a person on this issue, and therefore its documents should not be made public.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vt.) immediately hailed Tuesday's decision. He said the American people (as in, not you, AT&T) "have good reason to cheer" the result.
"The Supreme Court’s well-reasoned decision is a timely boost that will help ensure FOIA remains a vibrant and meaningful safeguard for the American people’s right to know," Leahy said.
The decision is not a huge surprise because the justices had revealed a strong skepticism about AT&T's stance during oral arguments.
Part of the company's argument surrounded a mention of "person" in the statute, which was defined to include other entities and corporations. That suggests "personal privacy" should also extend to corporations, the argument went.
Chief Justice John Roberts made that sound laughable during oral arguments. Here is what he said:
"I tried to sit down and come up with other examples where the adjective was very different from the root noun. It turns out it is not hard at all. You have craft and crafty. Totally different. Crafty doesn't have much to do with craft. Squirrel, squirrely. Right? I mean, pastor -- you have a pastor and pastoral. Same root, totally different."
I'm confused. This is a corporation appointed court or not?
"In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, decided in 1819. In the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Does this still apply or not?
Hmmm. Well, given that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals finding in favor of AT&T came as a surprise to legal observers AND that this is the SCOTUS and it UNANIMOUSLY decided that AT&T is NOT a person... then it must be correct.
The ruling is only with respect to treatment of corporations vis a vis the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
I'm not a legal observer or scholar, but what I take this to mean is that AT&T cannot hide behind its corporate status to have its information protected by FOIA.
Still a person, just can't hide from the freedom of information act, I take it.
No, NOT a person. Can't hide from the freedom of information act.
This is bogus. There is no "right" to demand every item of information from a company.
AT&T may have erred in claiming "personhood" as a reason to retain the right to hold your own information, but in no way does every company fall under the idea that "all your information are ours".
The FOIA is used to request information from the government, not companies. In this case it was information that AT&T had submitted to the FCC. The request was made by an AT&T competitor, which to me doesn't seem to be what the FOIA was meant to do.
I'm paying those 9 idiots to decide that a telephone company is NOT a person?
what a horrible investment.
Corporate "personhood" is not as simple as you make it sound. Technically, according to the law a corporation is a person. See U.S. Code Title 1, 1 which says "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise-- the words "person" and "whoever" include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals". It is a pretty complicated topic and has been an ongoing debate since the founding of the country.
The question in this case was whether a corporation can claim a personal privacy exemption in a FOIA request. I actually find it pretty interesting - and potentially pretty important. And if you compare it to last years Citizens United v FEC, it almost seems contradictory. I don't know, I'm no law expert, it just seems like it could be a bigger deal than it is given credit for.
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