Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

National Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Morton

ELR Citation: 4 ELR 20385
Nos. No. 73-1033, 498 F.2d 765/(D.C. Cir., 04/24/1974) Rev'd & remanded

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a lower court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff in a suit to compel disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of audits conducted on companies operating concessions in national parks and of annual financial statements filed by concessioners with the National Park Service. The district court's finding that the documents are information which would not generally be made available for public perusal does not, by itself, support application of exemption 4 of the Act; the district court must also determine whether disclosure will harm legitimate private or governmental interests in secrecy. Since the concessioners in this case are required to provide the information in question to the government as a mandatory condition of their right to operate in national parks, there is presumably no danger that public disclosure will impair the ability of the government to obtain such information in the future. The applicability of the exemption thus rests on the ability of individual concessioners to show that public disclosure is likely to cause substantial harm to their competitive positions. The court finds plaintiff's argument that such a showing cannot be made in this case because the concessioners are monopolists compelling, but remands the matter to the district court for further findings since injury to a concessioner's competitive position in a nonconcession enterprise would also make disclosure improper. The court notes that if only some parts of the information are confidential, the district court may excise those portions from otherwise disclosable documents. For the lower court's opinion, see 3 ELR 20236.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Richard B. Wolfe
Victor H. Kramer
John F. Dienelt
Institute for Public Interest Representation
Georgetown University Law School
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Counsel for Defendants
Harold H. Titus Jr., U.S. Attorney
Lawrence H. Wechsler
John A. Terry
Arnold T. Aikens
Earl J. Silbert, Asst. U.S. Attorneys
U.S. Courthouse
3rd and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001