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Argus Leader will be tried on April 22 before the US Supreme Court.
Mason Callejas, Wochit

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday restricted public and media access to government documents by extending the definition of a federal law regarding what may be considered confidential section of the Freedom of Information Act everything that should be kept secret or only information that can cause damage on publication.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 decision with judges Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor Dissent.

A retail group, the Food Marketing Institute and the federal government argue for a broad definition that leaves enough room to protect data from the public eye. Media organizations and public interest groups endorsed a narrower definition that causes damage, which would mean confidentiality for fewer FOIA requests.

In 2011, the case began with a request from the Argus Leader newspaper for the Freedom of Information Act. The newsroom in Sioux Falls, SD, is part of the USA TODAY Network.

More: Conservative gains at the Supreme Court lead to anger, frustration, and "behind the scenes" 19659005] The Argus leader called for the Department of Agriculture, which is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program managed to release the annual taxpayments paid to more than 320,000 retailers participating in the program deserts for access to food and fraud in the food stamp program.

More: F-Word wins trademark protection for "immoral, scandalous" material in the case of the Supreme Court's freedom of speech [19659005] "At least where commercial or financial information is usually and actually from are treated as private by their owners and made available to the government under privacy, the information is "confidential" in the sense of (FOIA). " Gorsuch decided.

Breyer noted that "the entire purpose of the FOIA is to provide the public with access to information that they otherwise can not obtain."

secret all information that need not be disclosed, I'm afraid the reading of the majority will deprive the public of information for reasons no better than convenience, atrocity, or bureaucratic inertia, "said Breyer.

Gannett Co., which owns the South Dakota newspaper, expressed disappointment at the ruling, warning that it could lead to greater state secrecy and less accountability to taxpayers, and urged Congress to re-establish the 40-year-old interpretation

"The court's decision gives companies relying on taxpayers the opportunity to decide for themselves what data the public will receive about the use of this money," said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of the USA TODAY Network and publisher of USA TODAY: "This is a step backwards for openness and a misinterpretation of the very purpose of the Freedom of Information Act. "

" We are disappointed with today's result. Obviously, "said Cory Myers, the news director of Argus Leader." This is a major blow to the public's right to know how their tax dollars are spent and who benefits from them. Nonetheless, we will continue to fight for openness and transparency of the government, as always. "

Jonathan Ellis, Reporter, and Cory Myers, News Director of The Argus Leader newspaper, based in Sioux Falls, SD, brought in April a challenge to the Freedom of Information Act to the Supreme Court. [19659017] (Photo: Hannah Gaber, USAT)

After the Department of Agriculture refused to publish the data, the Argus leader sued The case went to the US Circuit Court for the eighth circuit and back to the South Dakota Federal District Court, where a judge ruled that the information should be published.

The government did not appeal against this verdict, son The Food Marketing Institute intervened and appealed again to the Eighth circuit. The appeals court ruled against the institute in 2018 and asked the Supreme Court to investigate the case.

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A key issue in the case on April 22 was discussed, was whether a judgment of the US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit of 1974, the FOIA had twisted beyond the original intent of the Congress.

FOIA was adopted eight years earlier in 1966 and contained a waiver that allowed the government to withhold information it received from companies that contained trade secrets or financial information that was classified as confidential. However, the 1974 decision limited the confidential document to documents the publication of which would result in significant competition damage.

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The Food Marketing Institute argued that the ruling exceeded the Congress's intent and called on the Supreme Court to allow companies to make a decision on the need for confidentiality. The group was supported by other industry groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce.

The Argus leader argued that government spending records, including tax payments to food-merchants, were the reason for Congress's creation of FOIA. It was also argued that Congress had approved the standard of the 1974 decision by not changing it during numerous reviews of the FOIA since 1974. Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics / 2019/06/24 / freedom-information-act-supreme-court-rules-south-dakota-case / 1475089001 /