Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018

Food Marketing Institute, Petitioner v. Argus Leader Media, dba Argus Leader

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-06-24
DOCKET: 18-481
NAME: Food Marketing Institute, Petitioner v. Argus Leader Media, dba Argus Leader

   AUTHOR: Gorsuch
   JOINING: Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Kagan, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: No

OPINION: Concurring
   AUTHOR: Breyer
   JOINING: Ginsburg, Sotomayor
   GOOD: No

Case Commentary

Can The Government keep certain data secret? Can The Government ignore a Freedom of Information Act request if the information requested conforms to the following pattern?
  1. Provider Keeps Information Private
  2. Government Assures Provider of Confidentiality
  3. Releasing Information Would Harm Provider

In this person's reading of The Case (keeping in mind that this person is a Non Lawyer, Non Legal Expert, who does not really care that much about the specific issue at hand), The Court says The Government can ignore (and/or decline) a Freedom of Information Act (a FOIA for those in the know) Request (so, I guess, a FOIA-R for those who bother to wait for the fully qualified statement to be revealed) provided the first two conditions are met (1 & 2, above). Whereas the minority opinion would add the final caveat (#3), as well.

More specifically (as in, the issue at hand asks), is the USDA required to divulge Store Specific Sales information for SNAP (the new name for The Food Stamp Program)?

Since SNAP Payments are a Government Payment, I can't see why this information would be protected... nor why the USDA would ever feel the need to assure any degree of confidentiality regarding these numbers. Seriously, I would expect these figures to already be available.

So, I guess, if the challenge is as applied, I would have to go with Argus Leader, the information seeker in this case and give them the per Store SNAP data they were requesting.

But what about a facia challenge, you know, if that's the correct terminology?

I find Breyer's Concurring Dissent (Concurring in part, Dissenting in Part) to be the more thoughtful analysis.

Essentially (or at least, as I see it, as I'd hate to put words into another's mouth), Breyer points out that if only the first two criteria are used (the Information is Private and the Government has promised to treat it as such), then The Government is being allowed to thwart, bypass, and ignore the Freedom of Information Act by simply stating its wish to do so when collecting data... by simply offering an assurance that any collected data will be kept confidential.

This is obviously untenable.

Is it obviously untenable?

No matter, it seems obviously untenable to me... should the desire be for an open and free society.

Thus, Breyer would strap on the final requirement of Harm... which I can go with, unless I feel The Government or The People have a right to know.

The Government and The People being two separate and distinct entities, as The Government collects Taxes, whereas The People pay Taxes.

So if Confidential Information is Provided Voluntarily, then please feel free to keep it confidential.

But if we are talking about Confidential Information that either The Government or The People have a right to know, then it's time to share the wealth, as this is exactly what the Freedom of Information Act is supposed to cover.

Judging the Judges

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Information may want to be free.

But The Government wants you in chains.

Choose your Master, slave.

© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial