Powell v. IRS, No. 16-1682, 2017 WL 6001730 (D.D.C. Dec. 4, 2017) (Boasberg, J.)
Re: Request for tax records concerning plaintiff, plaintiff's grandfather, plaintiff's father, and plaintiff's family's printing businesses
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal: The court holds that "[s]everal of [plaintiff's] requests are moot[.]" "Three of them were already determined to be moot in the Court's prior Opinion because Defendant had released the documents[.]" "Since [the] Court's last Opinion, Defendant found and turned over additional documents, rendering requests for them moot as well[.]" "Also since the Opinion, the IRS realized that it had already provided [plaintiff] [certain] documents[.]" The court relates that "Plaintiff does not dispute the receipt of these documents, . . . except perhaps his own Master file-specific transcripts (although his argument is unclear), . . . but nonetheless argues that the IRS has concealed 'vital' information that should have appeared on them." "The Court already rejected this argument, however, as to the three previously mooted requests because [plaintiff] never supported his assertions that Defendant had somehow altered the transcripts." The court finds that "[plaintiff's] hunch does not overcome the presumption of good faith afforded the government's declarations."
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court holds that "because Defendant demonstrated the adequacy of its search with declarations afforded a presumption of good faith that Plaintiff has not rebutted, it is entitled to summary judgment." The court finds that "Defendant's declarations describe the search for Plaintiff's requested records 'in reasonable detail' and are accordingly afforded a presumption of good faith." The court explains that "[defendant's] declaration . . . contains three essential statements that courts require: the search terms used, the database or location searched, and an averment that all locations likely to contain responsive records were searched." "Yes, the IRS declarations could have included more details, including more particulars on how [the database searched] functions." "But the core principle is whether a defendant has provided enough information for a plaintiff to be able to challenge the adequacy of the search: 'A reasonably detailed affidavit, setting forth the search terms and the type of search performed, and averring that all files likely to contain responsive materials . . . were searched, is necessary to afford a FOIA requester an opportunity to challenge the adequacy of the search.'" "The IRS declarations provide [plaintiff] this opportunity." Finally, responding to plaintiff's argument, the court finds that "guesses about the existence of documents do not overcome the good-faith presumption afforded government declarations."