National Labor Relations Board v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co.

437 U.S. 214 (1978)


D issued an unfair labor practice complaint charging Robbins (P) with having committed numerous violations of § 8 (a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). P requested, pursuant to FOIA, that D make available for inspection and copying all potential witnesses' statements collected during D's investigation. D denied the request on the ground that this material was exempt from the disclosure requirements of FOIA. D placed particular reliance on Exemption 7 (A), which provides that disclosure is not required of 'matters that are . . . investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such records would . . . interfere with enforcement proceedings.' 5 U. S. C. § 552 (b)(7)(A) (1976 ed.). P appealed to D's General Counsel. Before the expiration of the 20-day period within which FOIA requires such appeals to be decided, P filed this action. P sought not only disclosure of the statements, but also a preliminary injunction against proceeding with the unfair labor practice hearing pending final adjudication of the FOIA claim and a permanent injunction against holding the hearing until the documents had been disclosed. P contends that these statements were exempt from disclosure under Exemption 7 (A) because their production would 'interfere' with a pending enforcement proceeding. The Court held that, since D did not claim that release of the documents at issue would pose any unique or unusual danger of interference with this particular enforcement proceeding, Exemption 7 (A) did not apply. D appealed. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the legislative history of certain amendments to FOIA in 1974 demonstrated that Exemption 7 (A) was to be available only where there was a specific evidentiary showing of the possibility of actual interference in an individual case. Reasoning that the only statements sought were those of witnesses whose prior statements would, under Ds own rules, be disclosed to P following the witnesses' hearing testimony, the court also rejected as inapplicable the argument that potential witnesses would refrain from giving statements at all if prehearing disclosure were available. The court held that D did not introduce any evidence tending to show that intimidation' was likely to occur in this particular case. The court affirmed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.