Brechner Center files brief in Freedom of Information Act case before U.S. Supreme Court

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and other open government groups have filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to keep more information available to the public. The court is considering whether corporations can invoke the “personal privacy” exemption to the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“To give corporations privacy rights in the context of FOIA, especially when separate loopholes for trade secrets already exist, will erode the public’s right to know,” Brechner Center Executive Director Sandra F. Chance said. “This is unacceptable, especially when the documents in dispute concern taxpayer funds paid to AT&T.”

The Federal Communications Commission had investigated AT&T for possibly over-billing the federal government. A third-party subsequently requested records related to that investigation. The FCC was set to release the files, but AT&T sued to block disclosure. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that AT&T could take advantage of the “personal privacy” exception of the federal right-to-know law. The Supreme Court will now decide the case.

Washington, D.C., attorneys Neal Goldfarb of Butzel Long Tighe Patton, PLLC and Mark S. Zaid of the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, PC, were lead attorneys on the brief. Other open government advocates joined the brief, including the Project On Government Oversight. The brief is available at POGO’s website, http://pogoarchives.org/m/gs/foia/fcc-v-att-pogo-amicus-brief.pdf.

The Brechner Center exists to educate and promote freedom of information laws and policies. It serves the students of UF, Florida citizens, media lawyers and journalists around the country by providing training sessions, answering open government questions and conducting research on First Amendment issues.

Posted: December 7, 2010
Category: College News
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