Kwoka v. IRS, No. 17-1157, 2018 WL 4681000 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2018) (Friedrich, J.)
Re: Request for nine categories of records relating to FOIA requests
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
- Exemptions 3 & 6: "The Court concludes that neither exemption 3 nor exemption 6 justifies a blanket withholding of [plaintiff's] request for FOIA requesters' names and organizational affiliations." The court relates that, in conjunction with Exemption 3, defendant made use of "another statute prohibiting disclosure of 'any return or return information,' 26 U.S.C. § 6103(a)." The court finds that "[i]f the IRS identifies specific instances where revealing a requester's name or organizational affiliation could indeed implicate substantial privacy interests, [or allow plaintiff to "deduce the identities of the taxpayers,"] it can redact those portions, but it must justify its redactions 'with reasonably specific detail.'"
- Procedural Requirements, Proper FOIA Requests & "Reasonably Segregable" Obligation: The court holds that "[a]lthough IRS records, in their current form, contain some first-party requesters' identities, the IRS can redact those portions of the records." "'The argument that a document with some information deleted is a "new document," and therefore not subject to disclosure, has been flatly rejected.'" The court continues to find that "[i]f the IRS means to argue that the exempt and non-exempt portions of the records in this case are 'inextricably intertwined' in the sense that it would be impossible to produce meaningful information while redacting the exempt portions, that is simply wrong: redacting individual names and organizational affiliations of exempt entries (as assessed under the standards articulated above) would not render the remaining record unintelligible."
- Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records: "[E]ven taking the IRS at its word, the Court does not find roughly 2,200 hours of review time to constitute an 'unreasonably burdensome search.'" Also, the court notes that "the IRS has already located the responsive records and thus need not conduct any additional search; the only issue is whether it must spend the time to review those records to make redactions."