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U.S. Supreme Court

Renegotiation Board v. Bannercraft Clothing, 415 U.S. 1 (1974)

Renegotiation Board v. Bannercraft Clothing Co., Inc.

No. 72-822

Argued October 17, 1973

Decided February 19, 1974

415 U.S. 1


Respondents, whose profits on defense contracts are undergoing renegotiation pursuant to the Renegotiation Act of 1951, sued in the District Court under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to enjoin petitioner Board from withholding documents that respondents had requested and from conducting any further renegotiation proceedings until the documents were produced. The District Court in each case granted injunctive relief. The cases were consolidated on appeal and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Court had jurisdiction under the FOIA to enjoin administrative proceedings before petitioner and to order production of the documents. Though noting that the FOIA nowhere authorizes injunctions of agency proceedings, the court concluded that Congress intended to confer broad equitable jurisdiction upon the district courts, and that "temporary stays of pending administrative procedures may be necessary on occasion to enforce [FOIA] policy." The court also concluded that contractors had to exhaust their administrative remedies only under the FOIA, but not under the Renegotiation Act, before they were able to request injunctive relief against renegotiation proceedings, and that contractors' remedies before petitioner

Page 415 U. S. 2

and de novo proceedings in the Court of Claims as provided under the Renegotiation Act were inadequate to prevent irreparable harm. Petitioner contends that the FOIA's provision in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3) for enjoining an agency from withholding its records and ordering the production of records improperly withheld from a complainant is the sole method of judicial enforcement.


1. The FOIA does not limit the inherent powers of an equity court to grant relief, as is manifest from the broad statutory language that Congress used, with its emphasis on disclosure, its carefully delineated exemptions, and the fact that § 552(a) vests equitable jurisdiction in the district courts. Pp. 415 U. S. 16-20.

2. In a renegotiation case, a contractor must pursue its administrative remedy under the Renegotiation Act, and cannot, through resort to preliminary litigation over an FOIA claim, obtain judicial interference with the procedures set forth in the Renegotiation Act. Aircraft & Diesel Equipment Corp. v. Hirsch, 331 U. S. 752; Lichter v. United States, 334 U. S. 742; Macauley v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 327 U. S. 540. Pp. 415 U. S. 20-25.

(a) It would contravene the Act's legislative purpose if judicial review by way of injunctive relief under FOIA were allowed to interrupt the process of bargaining that inheres in the statutory renegotiation scheme, and would delay the Government's recovery of excessive profits. Pp. 415 U. S. 20-23.

(b) The contractor, through a de novo proceeding in the Court of Claims, where discovery procedures are available, is not limited in exercising its normal litigation rights. Pp. 415 U. S. 23-24.

151 U.S.App.D.C. 174, 466 F.2d 345, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined, post, p. 415 U. S. 26.

Page 415 U. S. 3

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