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Cause of Action v. IRS, No. 13-0920, 2017 WL 2304318 (D.D.C. May 25, 2017) (Jackson, J.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cause of Action v. IRS, No. 13-0920, 2017 WL 2304318 (D.D.C. May 25, 2017) (Jackson, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning 26 U.S.C. § 6103

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion to strike

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  "The Court finds that since [defendant's declarant] has worked at the IRS for ten years, and she had served as the Director of the Office of Executive Secretariat for nine months at the time of her declaration, she has sufficient personal knowledge to describe the agency policies that were in place and had been communicated to employees."  "Obviously no declarant can rule out the possibility that an employee may fail to follow proper procedure, and therefore it would be speculative for her to aver that any employee who ever actually received an improper request[, part of the subject of plaintiff's request,] in fact promptly forwarded it to the Office of the Executive Secretariat."  "But it is equally speculative to assume that such a request was made." 
  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  "Because the agency searched the relevant database using agreed-upon search terms, it has shown that 'all files likely to contain responsive materials' were searched, and the Court finds that the search was 'reasonably expected to produce the information requested.'"  Specifically, "the IRS took steps to remedy the deficiencies described in the Court's prior opinion."  "It identified the office that regularly communicates with the Executive Office of the President, and it utilized search terms that were arrived upon through discussions with the plaintiff."  The court notes that "plaintiff demands that the agency search for records of suspected unauthorized conduct – that is, requests for confidential information made outside of the statutory framework and the IRS's procedures[.]"  However, the court finds that "there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing in this case, and the obvious fact that employees of any government or private entity are likely to use email – for either appropriate or inappropriate communications – is not enough to support plaintiff's call for a broad search into email in this particular instance."  "Given plaintiff's inability 'to identify specific additional places the agency should now search,' . . . [the court finds that] plaintiff has not pointed to any genuine issue of fact related to the adequacy of the search."  "The law is clear that FOIA does not provide requesters with a right to demand 'an all-encompassing fishing expedition' of files in every office within an agency."  "And the court need not 'embark on a time-consuming and costly goose chase in pursuit of phantom reports [from the agency].'"
District Court
Litigation Considerations
Vaughn Index
Updated March 23, 2018