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BALDRIGE v. SHAPIRO

decided*fn*: February 24, 1982.

BALDRIGE, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, ET AL
v.
SHAPIRO, ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Burger

[ 455 U.S. Page 347]

 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

[ 455 U.S. Page 348]

     Congress.*fn1 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.*fn2 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.

[ 455 U.S. 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.*fn3 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

[ 455 U.S. 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.*fn4 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 order reported at 636 F.2d 1210 (1980).

B

McNICHOLS v. BALDRIGE (No. 80-1781)

The city of Denver, through its officials, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado seeking a preliminary injunction to require the Bureau to cooperate with ...


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