In September of 2009, a court of appeals panel upheld the right of firms — and of all other "persons" fictitious in law — to block the feds' release of emails and other documents that the firms submitted to the feds but that might cast them in a bad light. See "Do Fake Persons Hold Right to 'Personal Privacy'?"
On January 19 — Blawgletter's birthday — the parties argued the case to the Supreme Court. The session didn't go well, as best we can tell, for those who would bar the government from handing over papers, under the Freedom of Information Act, that exposed (or hid) the True Views of the submitters.
The argument by and for the feds seemed weak. So abstract! So far from common sense! And yet so right!
But the AT&T side made up for the government's failure to root its points in what ordinary people might see every day. Justice Scalia brought out the defect, asking: "Can you give me any examples in common usage where people would refer to the personal privacy of a — of a corporation. It's a very strange phrase to me." Transcript at 25. Chief Justice Roberts piled on:
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. So I don't understand — I don't think there's much to the argument that because "person" means one thing, "personal" has to be the same relation.
What might we make of the pro-disclosure (and liberal) justices' apparent inability to link AT&T's secretiveness with citizens' every day experience of bad telephone service? And what should we think of the conservative justices' contrastingly plain ability to dissect — even to mock — AT&T's (facially absurd) claim that artificial entities have some kind of right to "personal privacy"?
What do you think?