Baldrige v. Shapiro

LOCATION: José Aponte de la Torre Airport, formerly Roosevelt Roads Naval Station

DOCKET NO.: 80-1436
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 455 US 345 (1982)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1981
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1982

David H Ben-asher - on behalf of the respondent in no. 80-1436
Elliott Schulder - on behalf of Petitioners in No. 80-1436 and Respondents in No. 80-1781
George C. Cerrone, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioners in No. 80-1781

Facts of the case


Media for Baldrige v. Shapiro

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1981 in Baldrige v. Shapiro

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Baldrige against Shapiro and McNichols against Baldrige.

Mr. Schulder.

Elliott Schulder:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, these two cases present the question whether Congress in the Census Act has prohibited the disclosure to local government officials of address lists prepared by the Census Bureau in the course of conducting the decennial census.

Baldrige versus Shapiro involves a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the Bureau's lists of all street addresses of residential units within Essex County, New Jersey.

McNichols versus Baldrige concerns a civil discovery request made during a lawsuit challenging the census results for the Bureau's lists of vacant dwelling units in Denver, Colorado.

We submit that the different factual postures of the two cases should not lead to different results.

Our view is that the language, structure, history, and purpose of the Census Act compel the conclusion that raw census data in the hands of the Census Bureau relating to particular census respondents, including the address data at issue here, may not be disclosed.

My argument will proceed as follows.

First, I will give a brief description of the enumeration procedures employed in the 1980 census.

Second, I will outline the procedural backgrounds of the two cases.

Third, I will explain why the Census Bureau's address lists come within the confidentiality mandate of the Census Act.

Finally, I will show that the confidentiality mandate applies regardless of whether the information is sought under the FOIA or under civil discovery rules.

Mr. Schulder, will your argument include a discussion of the plain language of the statute?

Elliott Schulder:

Absolutely, Your Honor.

Perhaps of all the statutes.

Elliott Schulder:

The 1980 census, like the two decennial censuses that preceded it, was conducted primarily through the use of the mails.

The Census Bureau mailed out questionnaires for response on or about the census date of April 1st, 1980.

Beforehand, the Bureau had compiled master address registers for each of some 300,000 enumeration districts in the country.

In urban areas an enumeration district consists of fewer than 325 street addresses.

The master address registers are bound books listing separate street addresses for each residential unit, and it includes such information as householders' names, the number of units at that address, whether the unit is vacant or occupied, and the number of persons in each unit.

The appendix to the amicus brief filed by the MDL plaintiffs, the Multi-District Litigation plaintiffs, contains a sample copy of the page from... of a page from the address register, and I refer the Court to that appendix, if the Court is interested in seeing what one of these things actually looks like.

The lists of addresses included in the registers were compiled from commercial mailing lists, census postal checks, pre-enumeration canvassing in the field by census personnel, and from direct responses to census questionnaires and to interviews conducted by census employees during the enumeration process.

After most of the questionnaires were returned, the Bureau conducted two follow-up procedures to check the status of addresses from which responses had not been received, and to check units that originally had been listed as vacant.

The enumerators were instructed not to classify a unit as vacant without verifying that fact through interviews with either the owner or a neighbor.

In addition to these follow-up procedures, the Census Bureau gave local government officials an opportunity to review and comment on the Bureau's population and housing tabulations.

As part of this local review program, the Bureau provided aggregate information for each enumeration district, including the number of housing units, the number of vacant units, and population figures.

In the Shapiro case, Respondent, the executive of Essex County, New Jersey, filed an action under the Freedom of Information Act seeking disclosure of the Census Bureau's address registers for all of the enumeration districts in the county.

Respondent Shapiro contended that as part of his participation in the Bureau's local review program, he needed the address registers in order to compare the Bureau's address lists with the county's lists, and thereby to determine whether the Bureau had counted all of the housing units within Essex County.

The Bureau claimed that the Census Act bars release of all raw census information relating to particular census respondents, including lists containing addresses of buildings in which individuals reside.

And the Bureau further claimed that this information was therefore exempt from disclosure under Exemption 3 of the FOIA.