U.S. Supreme Court hears freedom of information case from South Dakota

Edgar's picture


To sit in the courtroom of the Supreme Court of the United States and watch the nine justices in action is one thing. To sit in the courtroom and watch the justices in action when the issue is about freedom of information and the public’s right to know in America is a privilege.

So it was on April 22 that I witnessed the Supreme Court hear oral arguments in the case of Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media. This case is about grocers and the federal government wanting to block the public release of information about government payments to businesses participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the food stamps program.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader has been pursuing this information for the past decade. The newspaper filed its first federal Freedom of Information Act request for the SNAP payments data in 2011. The newspaper won in federal courts but a Hail Mary pass by the grocers put the case before the Supreme Court this year.

The case in part pivots on the definition of the word “confidential” in the federal Freedom of Information Act.



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