(The Myth of the Wizard of Oz)

[lbo-talk] Mommy, can a corporation be embarrassed?
Eubulides paraconsistent at comcast.net

[Mereological mayhem for methodological individualism]


As Citizens United Turns 1, U.S. Supreme Court Considers Corporate
Personhood Again by Marian Wang ProPublica, Jan. 19, 2011, 1:37 p.m.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on a case between AT&T
and the Federal Communications Commission, revisiting the legal
concept of “corporate personhood” last strengthened under the court’s
Citizen United ruling on corporate campaign spending. (That
controversial ruling has its first anniversary this week.)

The case before the court focuses on whether AT&T, a corporation, can
stop government agencies from releasing information obtained for law
enforcement purposes by claiming such disclosures would violate the
company’s “personal privacy.”

The phrase is included as an exemption in the text of the Freedom of
Information Act, a federal law that instructs government agencies on
what information to make public. As the SCOTUS blog notes, however,
there’s no specific definition of the words “personal privacy,” so
it’s not clear whether a corporation can qualify as a person in this

The lower court, the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, sided with AT&T in
an earlier ruling, stating that corporations are capable of being
embarrassed, harassed and stigmatized by public disclosures. If the
Supreme Court agrees, it could limit how much information federal
agencies are able to release about the companies they've investigated.
(Here's Bloomberg, with more background.)

In the appeal before the high court, a review of the briefs in support
of each side shows a number of news organizations and government
openness and watchdog groups backing up the FCC. Major business
groups—namely the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber
of Commerce and the Business Roundtable—have filed briefs in support
of AT&T.

Justice Elena Kagan, it’s worth noting, was solicitor general at the
time when the FCC and U.S. government petitioned the Supreme Court to
review the AT&T case. She has had to recuse herself from considering
it, and should the court split 4-4 without her, the lower court’s
decision would stand.

Kagan’s successor as solicitor general, Neal Katyal, has argued that
“a corporation itself can no more be embarrassed, harassed, or
stigmatized than a stone.”

According to early reports on the day’s proceedings, the high court
showed signs that it agreed. A transcript [PDF] of the oral arguments
has also been made available.

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