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Janangelo v. Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 29, 2017

PETER JANANGELO, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION, Defendants.

          ORDER

         Presently before the court is defendant Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's (“TIGTA”) motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 12). Plaintiff Peter Janangelo, Jr. (“Janangelo”) filed a response (ECF No. 13), to which TIGTA replied (ECF No. 17).

         Also before the court is Janangelo's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 14). TIGTA filed a response (ECF No. 18), to which Janangelo replied (ECF No. 23).

         I. Background

         The present case stems from a letter Janangelo filed with TIGTA on November 3, 2015, detailing a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. (ECF No. 12). The FOIA request sought “a copy of the TIGTA Report concerning . . . TIGTA Complaint #55-1409-0099-C.” (ECF No. 12-2 at 6).[1]

         The TIGTA complaint #55-1409-0099-C (“TIGTA complaint”) came as a result of a congressional inquiry from Representative Joseph Heck (“Heck”). (ECF No. 12-2 at 2). Janangelo prompted Heck's inquiry by representing to him alleged misconduct of an IRS employee, Debra W. Thompson (“Thompson”). (ECF No. 12-2 at 6).

         On December 9, 2015, TIGTA responded to Janangelo's FOIA request with a Glomar response, which stated that “[t]o the extent you are requesting documents pertaining to a third-party, TIGTA can neither admit nor deny the existence of responsive records.” (ECF No. 12-2 at 7). TIGTA asserted this Glomar response because the “request seeks access to the types of documents for which there is no public interest that outweighs the privacy interests established and protected by the FOIA (5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(7)(C) and (b)(6)).” (ECF No. 12-2 at 7).

         On December 29, 2015, Janangelo appealed TIGTA's Glomar response and asserted that he “require[d] a copy of TIGTA's Report of TIGTA Complaint#: 55-1409-009-C to defend [himself] against Debra W. Thompson's July 13, 2015 proposal to terminate [his] employment with the Internal Revenue Service.” (ECF No. 12-2 at 11). Janangelo argued that the § 522(b)(6) exception was inapplicable because the FOIA request did not seek personnel files. (ECF No 12-2 at 12). Janangelo also argued that the § 522(b)(7)(C) exception was similarly inapplicable because the FOIA request sought “a copy of TIGTA's Report” regarding the TIGTA complaint-a document not compiled for law enforcement purposes. (ECF No. 12-2 at 12).

         On February 5, 2016, TIGTA affirmed its original denial of Janangelo's FOIA request, again citing the § 522 (b)(6) and (b)(7)(C) exemptions. (ECF No. 12-2 at 13).

         Janangelo filed the underlying complaint on April 20, 2016, asserting one claim for violation of FOIA. (ECF No. 1).

         II. Legal Standard & Discussion

         A. Summary Judgment in FOIA Cases

         Because the facts are rarely in dispute in FOIA cases, courts need not analyze whether a genuine issue of material fact exists to grant summary judgment. Minier v. Central Intelligence Agency, 88 F.3d 796, 800 (9th Cir. 1996). Rather, the court views the facts in a light most favorable to the requestor and applies a two-step inquiry whereby it must (1) determine whether the agency has conducted a search “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents, ” and (2) examine whether the withheld information falls within one of the nine FOIA exemptions. Zemansky v. U.S. E.P.A., 767 F.2d 569, 571 (9th Cir. 1985) (quotation marks and citation omitted). “The agency resisting disclosure of requested information has the burden of proving the applicability of an exemption.” Minier, 88 F.3d at 800 (citing Church of Scientology v. United States Dep't of the Army, 611 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir. 1979)).

         Moreover, a government agency may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records through a Glomar response if the claimed “exemption would itself preclude the acknowledgment of such documents.” Id. (citing Hunt v. Central Intelligence Agency, 981 F.2d 1116, 1118 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         B. Reasonably ...


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