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Satterlee v. IRS, No. 21-03046, 2022 WL 428409 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 11, 2022) (Ketchmark, J.)


Satterlee v. IRS, No. 21-03046, 2022 WL 428409 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 11, 2022) (Ketchmark, J.) 

Re:  Request for various IRS records including oaths of office and records concerning plaintiff

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The Court holds that defendant conducted an adequate search for "certificate[s] of assessment," "notices of federal tax liens," "proof of claim," "verification of debt," "notice of levy," an "IRS assessment," "all Evidences [sic] of Judgment, Judgment(s) as Debtor, of Levy, of Garnishee, of Lien."  In so holding, the Court observes that "[it] is not aware of any legal authority that holds the legal significance of any document or record produced in response to any one of Plaintiff's FOIA requests has any bearing on whether Defendant has, as a matter of law, satisfied its burden of production under FOIA and/or the Privacy Act."  The Court further observes that "[t]o the extent Plaintiff seeks to argue the legal import or effect of the absence of [certain records] as to any contemporaneous tax-related disputes, such argument is wholly outside the context of this FOIA/Privacy Act lawsuit and will not be considered in the limited context of this case."

    As to plaintiff's requests for which defendant found no records, the Court upheld the adequacy of defendant's search for "Certification(s) . . . for years ending 1998 through 2018," "Ratification of Commencement," "Agreement . . . to pay . . . for [tax] year(s) ending 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008," "a . . . valid UCC-1 form [containing the debtor's and creditor's signature]," "the financing statement/security agreement signed by the alleged debtor and the secured party," and "the valid court order, based on a court judgment wherein the alleged debtor has had due process opportunity to contest the alleged debt."  As to plaintiff's request for an IRS "Demand for Payment," the Court held that "to the extent [defendant's] sworn statement can be understood as having located the notice bearing serial number 417704920 but that the language 'Demand for Payment' does not exist or is unclear what it is referring to, on the instant summary judgment record, the Court cannot find Defendant has demonstrated it fulfilled its obligation under FOIA."
  • Exemption 6:  "As to Plaintiff's request for copies of [the IRS agent's] oath of office, . . . [defendant's declarant] states ' . . . that information is being withheld under FOIA exemption 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6)' as 'facially categorically personal private information and thus exempt from disclosure.'"  The court notes that "Plaintiff's request does not concern 'personally identifying information' such as [the IRS agent's] identity, contact information, or her specific involvement as a Revenue Officer with Plaintiff's tax account or file (or that of any other taxpayer)."  "Even assuming a personal private interest exists in an oath of office of a federal employee, Defendant has not persuaded the Court disclosure would compromise any such privacy interest in a manner that would outweigh the public's interest (as asserted by Plaintiff here) concerning an [IRS agent's] 'assumptions of [federal] authority' in dealing with the public."  "For these reasons, . . . the Court cannot find Defendant is entitled to summary judgment concerning this specific FOIA request."  "To the extent Plaintiff's FOIA request would encompasses other aspects of [IRS agent's] personnel file, . . . the Court emphasizes that Plaintiff has identified no public interest for disclosure of this information."  "And indeed, Courts have recognized '[g]overnment employees have at l[e]ast a minimal privacy interest in their employment history and job performance evaluation.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated March 7, 2022