Josh Gerstein at Politico: “The Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to businesses seeking to block their information from being disclosed to the public after it winds up in the hands of the federal government.
The justices ruled in favor of retailers seeking to prevent a South Dakota newspaper from obtaining store-level data on the redemption of food stamp benefits, now officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The high court ruling rejected a nearly half-century-old appeals court precedent that allowed the withholding of business records under the Freedom of Information Act only in cases where harm would result either to the business or to the government’s ability to acquire information in the future.
The latest case was set into motion when the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused to disclose the store-level SNAP data in response to a 2011 FOIA request from the Argus Leader, the daily newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The newspaper sued, but a federal district court ruled in favor of the USDA.
The Argus Leader appealed, and the U.S. Appeals Court for the 8th Circuit ruled that the exemption the USDA was citing did not apply in this case, sending the issue back to a lower court. The district court was tasked with determining whether the USDA was covered by a separate FOIA exemption governing information that would cause competitive injury if released.
That court ruled in favor of the newspaper, at which point the Food Marketing Institute, a trade group that represents retailers such as grocery stores, filed an appeal in lieu of the USDA….(More)”.