MOOREFIELD v. U.S. SECRET SERVICE
449 U.S. 909 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

MOOREFIELD v. U.S. SECRET SERVICE , 449 U.S. 909 (1980)

449 U.S. 909

Bill B. MOOREFIELD
v.
UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE et al
No. 79-6583

Supreme Court of the United States

October 14, 1980

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

Because the decision in this case is subject to serious question under the reasoning of NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214 (1978), I dissent from the denial of certiorari.

The Secret Service maintains an open file on petitioner, who has twice been convicted of threatening to kill the President. In January 1976, petitioner filed an administrative request with the Service to inspect that file, or at least such portions of it as could be segregated from exempt portions. [Footnote 1] There were at that time no proceedings pending against petitioner. His request was denied in its entirety. [Footnote 2] This decision was

Page 449 U.S. 909 , 910

upheld on administrative appeal and in subsequent judicial proceedings brought under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B). During the course of these proceedings, petitioner learned that the file he sought consisted of 225 pages. Despite a request by petitioner, at no time was this file itemized and indexed in such a way as to correlate particular portions of the file with particular exemption provisions of the Act.

The District Court conducted an in camera inspection of the file and then granted respondents' motion for summary judgment, finding that disclosure "would constitute a threat to ongoing enforcement activities and to certain individuals within [and] without the Secret Service." The Court of Appeals affirmed, 611 F.2d 1021 (CA5 1980), relying on this Court's interpretation of Exemption 7(A) of the Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7)( A), in Robbins Tire.

The Act requires that records and materials in the possession of federal agencies be made available on demand, unless the requested material falls within one of nine statutory exemptions. Exemption 7(A) states: "This section does not apply to matters that are . . . (7) investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such records would (A) interfere with enforcement proceedings. . . ." The present language of this Exemption is the result of a 1974 amendment to the Act. The Act, prior to 1974, had exempted from disclosure all "investigatory files compiled for law enforcement purposes." 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7) (1970 ed.). In Robbins Tire we surveyed the meaning and scope of Exemption 7(A) in light of the legislative history that led to its narrowing in 1974. We concluded that the purpose of the 1974 amendment had been "to eliminate 'blanket exemptions' for Government records simply because they were found in investigatory files compiled for law enforcement purposes. . . ." 437 U.S ., at 236. [449 U.S. 909 , 911]


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