Baldrige v. Shapiro Nichols v. Baldrige, Nos. 80-1436

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBURGER
Citation102 S.Ct. 1103,455 U.S. 345,71 L.Ed.2d 199
PartiesMalcolm BALDRIGE, Secretary of Commerce, et al., Petitioners, v. Peter SHAPIRO, Essex County Executive. William H. McNICHOLS, Jr., etc., et al., Petitioners, v. Malcolm BALDRIGE, Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce, et al
Decision Date24 February 1982
Docket NumberNos. 80-1436,80-1781

455 U.S. 345
102 S.Ct. 1103
71 L.Ed.2d 199
Malcolm BALDRIGE, Secretary of Commerce, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Peter SHAPIRO, Essex County Executive. William H. McNICHOLS, Jr., etc., et al., Petitioners, v. Malcolm BALDRIGE, Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce, et al.

Nos. 80-1436, 80-1781.
Argued Dec. 2, 1981.
Decided Feb. 24, 1982.
Syllabus

These cases present the question whether lists of addresses collected and utilized by the Bureau of the Census are exempt from disclosure either by way of civil discovery or the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), under the confidentiality provisions of the Census Act, 13 U.S.C. §§ 8 and 9. Section 8(b) allows the Secretary of Commerce to reveal statistical materials "which do not disclose the information reported by, or on behalf of, any particular respondent." Section 9(a) prohibits the Secretary from using the information furnished except for statistical purposes and from making any publication "whereby the data furnished by any particular establishment or individual . . . can be identified"; it also prohibits examination of individual reports by "anyone other than the sworn officers and employees of the Department or bureau or agency thereof." The 1980 census indicated that the areas of Essex County, N.J., and Denver, Colo., among others, had lost population during the 1970's. Both localities challenged the census count under the Census Bureau's local review procedures, asserting that the Bureau had erroneously classified occupied dwellings as vacant and seeking unsuccessfully to obtain access to a portion of the address lists used by the Bureau in conducting its count in their respective jurisdictions. In No. 80-1436, the Essex County Executive filed suit in Federal District Court to compel disclosure under the FOIA of the Bureau's master address list, compiled initially from commercial mailing address lists and census postal checks, and updated through direct responses to census questionnaires, canvassing by Bureau personnel, and in some instances a cross-check with the 1970 census data. The District Court held that the FOIA required disclosure of the requested information. The court rejected the contention that the confidentiality provisions of the Census Act constitute a statutory exception to disclosure within the meaning of Exemption 3 of the FOIA, which provides that disclosure need not be made as to information "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute" if the statute affords the agency no discretion on disclosure, or establishes particular cri-

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teria for withholding the data, or refers to the particular types of material to be withheld. The Court of Appeals affirmed. In No. 80-1781, Denver officials filed suit in Federal District Court, seeking a preliminary injunction to require the Bureau's cooperation with the city in verifying its vacancy data. The District Court granted the city's discovery request for vacancy information contained in the Bureau's updated master address registers. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, relying on the language of the Census Act and Congress' intent to protect census information.

Held:

1. The requested information in No. 80-1436 is not subject to disclosure under the FOIA. Pp. 352-359.

(a) To stimulate public cooperation necessary for an accurate census—providing a basis for apportioning Representatives among the states in Congress, serving an important function in the allocation of federal grants to states based on population, and also providing important data for Congress and ultimately for the private sector—Congress has provided assurances that information furnished by individuals is to be treated as confidential. Title 13 U.S.C. §§ 8(b) and 9(a) explicitly provide for nondisclosure of certain census data, and no discretion is provided to the Census Bureau on whether or not to disclose such data. Thus, §§ 8(b) and 9(a) qualify as withholding statutes under Exemption 3 of the FOIA. Pp. 353-355.

(b) The unambiguous language of the confidentiality provisions of the Census Act—focusing on the "information" or "data" that constitutes the statistical compilation—as well as the Act's legislative history, indicates that Congress contemplated that raw data reported by or on behalf of individuals, not just the identity of the individuals, was to be held confidential and not available for disclosure. The master address list sought by Essex County is part of the raw census data intended by Congress to be protected under the Act. And under the Act's clear language, it is not relevant that municipalities seeking data will use it only for statistical purposes. Pp. 355-359.

2. Nor is the requested information in No. 80-1781 subject to disclosure under the discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 26(b)(1), if requested information is privileged, it may be withheld even if relevant to the lawsuit and essential to the establishment of plaintiff's claim. A privilege may be created by statute, and the strong policy of nondisclosure under the confidentiality provisions of the Census Act indicates that Congress intended such provisions to constitute a "privilege" within the meaning of the Federal Rules. Pp. 360-362.

Page 347

No. 80-1436, 3rd Cir., 636 F.2d 1210, reversed; No. 80-1781, 10th Cir., 644 F.2d 844, affirmed.

Elliott Schulder, Washington, D. C., for petitioners in 80-1436 and for the respondents in 80-1781.

David H. Ben-Asher, Orange, N. J., for respondent in 80-1436.

George J. Cerrone, Jr., Denver, Colo., for petitioners in 80-1781.

Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to determine whether lists of addresses collected and utilized by the Bureau of the Census are exempt from disclosure, either by way of civil discovery or the Freedom of Information Act, under the confidentiality provisions of the Census Act, 13 U.S.C. §§ 8 and 9.

I

Under Art. I, § 2, cl. 3, of the United States Constitution, responsibility for conducting the decennial census rests with

Page 348

Congress.1 Congress has delegated to the Secretary of Commerce the duty to conduct the decennial census, 13 U.S.C. § 141; the Secretary in turn has delegated this function to the Bureau of the Census. 13 U.S.C. § 21.

The 1980 enumeration conducted by the Bureau of the Census indicated that Essex County, N.J., which includes the city of Newark, and Denver, Colo., among other areas, had lost population during the 1970's. This information was conveyed to the appropriate officials in both Essex County and Denver. Under Bureau procedures a city has 10 working days from receipt of the preliminary counts to challenge the accuracy of the census data.2 Both Essex County and Denver challenged the census count under the local review procedures. Both proceeded on the theory that the Bureau had erroneously classified occupied dwellings as vacant, and both sought to compel disclosure of a portion of the address lists used by the Bureau in conducting its count in their respective jurisdictions.

Page 349

A

BALDRIGE v. SHAPIRO (No. 80-1436)

The Essex County Executive filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey to compel the Bureau to release the "master address" register under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552.3 The master address register is a listing of such information as addresses, householders' names, number of housing units, type of census inquiry, and, where applicable, the vacancy status of the unit. The list was compiled initially from commercial mailing address lists and census postal checks, and was updated further through direct responses to census questionnaires, pre- and post-enumeration canvassing by census personnel, and in some instances by a cross-check with the 1970 census data. The Bureau resisted disclosure of the master address list, arguing that 13 U.S.C. §§ 8(b) and 9(a) prohibit disclosure of all raw census data pertaining to particular individuals, including addresses. The Bureau argued that it therefore could lawfully withhold the information under the FOIA pursuant to Exemption 3, which provides that the FOIA does not apply where information is specifically exempt from disclosure by statute. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3).

The District Court concluded that the FOIA required disclosure of the requested information. The court began its analysis by noting that public policy favors disclosure under the FOIA unless the information falls within the statutory exemptions. The District Court concluded that the Census Act did not provide a "blanket of confidentiality" for all census materials. Rather, the confidentiality limitation is

Page 350

"solely to require that census material be used in furtherance of the Bureau's statistical mission and to ensure against disclosure of any particular individual's response." App. to Pet. for Cert. 10a. The court noted that Essex County did not seek access to individual census reports or information relative to particular individuals, but sought access to the address list exclusively for statistical purposes in conjunction with the Bureau's own program of local review. In addition, the Secretary is authorized by the Census Act to utilize county employees if they are sworn to observe the limitations of the statute. The District Court concluded that the Bureau's claim of confidentiality impeded the goal of accurate and complete enumeration. Finally, the District Court found that the information sought was not derived from the questionnaires received, but rather from data available prior to the census. The District Court ordered the Bureau to make available the address register of all property in the county, with the proviso that all persons using the records be sworn to secrecy.4 The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed for the reasons stated by the District Court. App. to Pet. for Cert. 1a. Judgment...

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151 practice notes
  • Fiumara v. Higgins, Civ. No. 82-403-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • September 30, 1983
    ...purpose of FOIA, however, is not to serve as a substitute for private litigants' civil or criminal discovery. See Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 360 n. 14, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 1112, n. 14, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982); Giza v. Secretary of Health, 572 F. Supp. 1100 Education and Welfare, 628 F.2d ......
  • Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Miss., L.L.C., No. 15-60562
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2016
    ...process it has said so.”); Jicarilla Apache Nation v. United States , 60 Fed.Cl. 611, 613 & n.1 (Fed. Cl. 2004) (collecting statutes).29 455 U.S. 345, 354–61, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982) (“[Section] 8(b) and § 9(a) of the Census Act embody explicit congressional intent to preclude......
  • New York v. Trump, 20-CV-5770 (RCW) (PWH) (JMF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 10, 2020
    ...College), the census has long "fulfill[ed] many important and valuable functions for the benefit of the country." Baldrige v. Shapiro , 455 U.S. 345, 353, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982). As the Supreme Court has observed, it "now serves as a linchpin of the federal statistical system......
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, No. 91-1502
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1992
    ...The confidentiality of individual responses has long been assured by statute. See 13 U.S.C. §§ 8(b), 9(a); see also Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 356-358, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 1110-1111, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982). 19. The great weight of authority supports the view that the conduct of the censu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
151 cases
  • Fiumara v. Higgins, Civ. No. 82-403-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • September 30, 1983
    ...purpose of FOIA, however, is not to serve as a substitute for private litigants' civil or criminal discovery. See Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 360 n. 14, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 1112, n. 14, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982); Giza v. Secretary of Health, 572 F. Supp. 1100 Education and Welfare, 628 F.2d ......
  • Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Miss., L.L.C., No. 15-60562
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2016
    ...process it has said so.”); Jicarilla Apache Nation v. United States , 60 Fed.Cl. 611, 613 & n.1 (Fed. Cl. 2004) (collecting statutes).29 455 U.S. 345, 354–61, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982) (“[Section] 8(b) and § 9(a) of the Census Act embody explicit congressional intent to preclude......
  • New York v. Trump, 20-CV-5770 (RCW) (PWH) (JMF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 10, 2020
    ...College), the census has long "fulfill[ed] many important and valuable functions for the benefit of the country." Baldrige v. Shapiro , 455 U.S. 345, 353, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982). As the Supreme Court has observed, it "now serves as a linchpin of the federal statistical system......
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, No. 91-1502
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 26, 1992
    ...The confidentiality of individual responses has long been assured by statute. See 13 U.S.C. §§ 8(b), 9(a); see also Baldrige v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345, 356-358, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 1110-1111, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982). 19. The great weight of authority supports the view that the conduct of the censu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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