National Labor Relations Board v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Company

PETITIONER:National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT:Robbins Tire & Rubber Company
LOCATION:Allied Structural Steel Company: Industrial Construction Division

DOCKET NO.: 77-911
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 214 (1978)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1978

Carl L. Taylor – for petitioner
William M. Earnest – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 26, 1978 in National Labor Relations Board v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Company

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 15, 1978 in National Labor Relations Board v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Company

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in National Labor Relations Board against Robbins Tire & Rubber Company will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Following a contested representative elections in National Labor Relations Board, scheduled a hearing on an unfair labor practice complaint against the respondent company.

The respondent requested under the Freedom of Information Act that the board disclosed statements of potential witnesses prior to the hearing.

The board denied this request, claiming that the Act permitted it to withhold such statements. It relied particularly on a provision known as exemption 7 (a) which permitted government agencies to withhold investigatory records compiled for the law enforcement, but only to the extent that their production would interfere with enforcement proceedings.

Respondent sued the Board in the United States District Court for Northern district of Alabama which court upheld the request for the witnesses’ statements and rejected the Board’s claim basis for non-disclosure.

On the Board’s appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

That court held that exemption 7 (a) was not available to the Board because it had not made a showing that is the Board had not made a showing, that the particular witnesses in this proceeding would be intimidated by the pre-hearing release of their earlier statements.

In an opinion filed today with the clerk, we hold that the material sought by respondents is indeed exempt from mandatory disclosure and exemption 7 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The language of the statute and its legislative history support our conclusion.

For example, Congress did not intend to preclude the court from determining that as a general matter, the disclosure of certain kinds of documents in certain kinds of enforcement proceedings would “interfere with enforcement proceedings” within the meaning of exemption 7.

When Congress first passed the Freedom of Information Act it was particularly concerned that the Act not be used to compel disclosure where there are statements involving proceedings prior to when they testified in the unfair labor practice hearing.

The courts had uniformly so interpreted the 1966 Act.

There is no indication that when Congress amended the Act in 1974, it intended to override it’s own earlier policy on these cases.

And the danger is likely to occur from pre-hearing release of these documents including intimidation of witnesses do in fact impose a likelihood of interference with enforcement proceeding.

Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion to which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Mr. Justice Brennan joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.