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Case TitleSmart-Tek Automated Services Inc. v. United States Internal Revenue Service
DistrictSouthern District of California
CitySan Diego
Case Number3:2015cv00453
Date Filed2015-02-27
Date Closed2018-11-26
JudgeJudge Barry Ted Moskowitz
PlaintiffSmart-Tek Automated Services Inc.
Case DescriptionSmart-Tek Automated Services, Inc. submitted a FOIA request to the IRS. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Smart-Tek Automated Services filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUnited States Internal Revenue Service
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [36]
FOIA Project Annotation: In yet another of five suits by Smart-Tek Services against the IRS for records concerning the company's tax liability for a number of alleged alter ego corporations, a federal court in California has ruled that the IRS still has not shown that it conducted an adequate search, has once again held off on ruling on the agency's Exemption 3 (other statutes) and Exemption 7 (C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) because the exemption claims may be undercut by its search claims, has rejected the agency's Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 7(D) (confidential sources) claims, but has accepted its Exemption 7(A) (interference with ongoing investigation or proceedings). The primary focus in all of Smart-Tek's suits has been the company's attempt to discern the identities of the alter ego companies for which the IRS claims the company is liable. Unfortunately, the investigation that resulted in the tax liability decision involved the commingling of documents identifying the various alter egos in a file containing 141,000 pages. For each suit, the agency claimed it had searched these files for responsive records, but refused to identify any alter ego company without an authorization. Smart-Tek took the position that it could not confirm whether a company was related to it without knowing the identities. Judge Barry Moskowitz once again found the agency's explanation of its search insufficient. He noted that "the IRS spent months reviewing [65] boxes and removing particular documents, but it has not explained what criteria the review team used to determine which documents to remove. Although an agency need only prove its search was 'reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents,' to evaluate the adequacy of the IRS's search, the Court needs to know what the search of the 65 boxes entailed to determine whether it was reasonable." Once again holding off on the Exemption 3 and 7 (C) claims, Moskowitz observed that "the fact that any privilege pertaining to the identities of the alter egos may have been dispelled does not necessarily mean the identity of every entity whose files were in the 65 boxes has to be disclosed to establish the reasonableness of the IRS' search," but since the agency's search was not yet complete, Moskowitz said he would reserve ruling at this time on the exemption claims. Moskowitz rejected the agency's deliberative process claim, indicating that the agency "fails to indicate in non-conclusory fashion how the withheld information was 'actually related' to the IRS's efforts to decide how to proceed with the collection action in this case." Although the agency claimed that a source had received an implicit assurance of confidentiality, Moskowitz found the agency's assertion lacking. He noted that since the agency "does not explain what [it] means by an 'implicit assurance of confidentiality' the Court cannot determine whether the circumstance [it] is referring to was one 'from which such an assurance could reasonably be inferred.'" Approving the agency's Exemption 7(A) claim, Moskowitz noted that "'the IRS need only make a general showing that disclosure of its investigatory records would interfere with its enforcement proceedings.'"
Issues: Adequacy - Search, Exemption 3 - Limited agency discretion
Opinion/Order [52]
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2015-02-271COMPLAINT Against United States Internal Revenue Service (Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0974-7848077.), filed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet) The new case number is 3:15-cv-00453-JLS-RBB. Judge Janis L. Sammartino and Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks are assigned to the case. (Shamoun, Ronson)(nbp)(jrd) (Entered: 02/27/2015)
2015-02-272Summons Issued. Counsel receiving this notice electronically should print this summons and serve it in accordance with Rule 4, Fed.R.Civ.P and LR 4.1. (nbp)(jrd) (Entered: 02/27/2015)
2015-03-033Summons Returned Executed (filed as CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE) by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc. re 1 Complaint, (Shamoun, Ronson) Modified text, qc mailer sent on 3/3/2015 (jao). (Entered: 03/03/2015)
2015-03-094SUMMONS Returned Executed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. United States Internal Revenue Service served. (Shamoun, Ronson) (jao). (Entered: 03/09/2015)
2015-03-095SUMMONS Returned Executed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. United States Internal Revenue Service served. (Shamoun, Ronson) (jao). (Entered: 03/09/2015)
2015-03-206NOTICE OF RELATED CASE(S) by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc. of case(s) 15-cv-447-BTM-JMA; 15-cv-455-H-BGS; 15-cv-0452-H-NLS; 15-cv-449-L-NLS re 1 Complaint, . (Shamoun, Ronson) Proposed low number order prepared on 3/23/2015 (jao). (Entered: 03/20/2015)
2015-03-207NOTICE of Party With Financial Interest by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc. re 1 Complaint, (Shamoun, Ronson) (jao). (Entered: 03/20/2015)
2015-03-308ORDER OF TRANSFER PURSUANT TO LOW NUMBER RULE. Case reassigned to Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz and Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler for all further proceedings. Judge Janis L. Sammartino, Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks no longer assigned to case. Create association to 3:15-cv-00447-BTM-JMA. The new case number is 15cv0453-BTM(JMA). Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 3/25/2015. Signed by Judge Janis L. Sammartino on 3/27/2015. (jao) (Entered: 03/30/2015)
2015-03-319MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer or other Responsive Pleading by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Attachments: # 1 Supplement Proposed Order)(Josey, Stephen)Attorney Stephen Andrew Josey added to party United States Internal Revenue Service(pty:dft) qc email re proposed order on 4/1/2015 (rlu). (Entered: 03/31/2015)
2015-04-0110MOTION re 9 MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer or other Responsive Pleading for entry of Stipulation by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Attachments: # 1 Supplement Stipulation)(Josey, Stephen) qc email re proposed order on 4/2/2015 (rlu). (Entered: 04/01/2015)
2015-04-0311Stipulation Regarding Date for Answer. The parties stipulate that the United States has until 05/04/2015 to answer or otherwise respond to the Plaintiffs complaint. Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 04/01/2015. (ag) (Entered: 04/03/2015)
2015-04-0312ORDER. The United States Motion for Entry of Stipulation is hereby granted. Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 04/03/2015.(ag) (Entered: 04/03/2015)
2015-05-0413ANSWER to 1 Complaint, by United States Internal Revenue Service.(Josey, Stephen) (rlu). (Entered: 05/04/2015)
2015-05-0614NOTICE AND ORDER for Early Neutral Evaluation Conference: Telephonic Early Neutral Evaluation set for 6/1/2015 at 9:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 5/6/2015.(rlu) (Entered: 05/06/2015)
2015-06-0115Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Early Neutral Evaluation Conference held on 6/1/2015. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Case Management Conference set for 7/31/2015 09:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Counsel shall call in for the conference using the same dial-in information previously provided. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 06/01/2015)
2015-07-3116Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 7/31/2015. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Case Management Conference set for 9/15/2015 09:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Counsel shall use the same call-in information previously provided.(no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 07/31/2015)
2015-09-1517Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 9/15/2015. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Court to issue order. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 09/15/2015)
2015-09-1518ORDER: The Court convened a Case Management Conference on 9/15/2015. (1) Setting Deadline to Complete Document Production and (2) Scheduling a telephonic Case Management Conference for 12/15/2015 at 9:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 9/15/2015.(rlu) (Entered: 09/15/2015)
2015-12-1519Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 12/15/2015. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Case Management Conference set for 1/27/2016 09:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Counsel shall use the same call-in information previously provided. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 12/15/2015)
2016-01-2720Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 1/27/2016. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Case Management Conference set for 3/2/2016 09:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Counsel shall use the same call-in information previously provided. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 01/27/2016)
2016-03-0221Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 3/2/2016. (Plaintiff Attorney Ronson Shamoun). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). Court to issue order. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 03/02/2016)
2016-03-0222ORDER: (1) Setting Filing Deadline for Motions for Summary Judgment and (2) Scheduling Case Management Conference. Motions for summary judgment must be filed on or before 9/12/2016. A telephonic Case Management Conference will be held on 5/19/2016 at 9:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 3/2/2016.(rlu) (Entered: 03/02/2016)
2016-05-1923Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 5/19/2016. (Plaintiff Attorneys Ronson Shamoun, Allison Soares, Brad Paladini). (Defendant Attorney Stephen Josey). (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 05/19/2016)
2016-08-2424Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Summary Judgment by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Josey, Stephen) (rlu). (Entered: 08/24/2016)
2016-08-2625ORDER granting 24 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The deadline to file motions for summary judgment is continued from 9/12/2016 to 10/7/2016. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 8/26/2016. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 08/26/2016)
2016-10-0726MOTION for Summary Judgment by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Motion, # 2 Memo of Points and Authorities, # 3 Declaration of Joseph Maher, # 4 Declaration of Rosanna Savala, # 5 Declaration of Delphine Thomas, # 6 Exhibit A - FOIA Request)(Josey, Stephen)(acc). (Entered: 10/07/2016)
2016-10-0727REDACTION to 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment Exhibit A - FOIA Request by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Josey, Stephen) (acc). (Entered: 10/07/2016)
2016-10-0728MOTION to Seal a Previously Filed Document by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Josey, Stephen) (dls). (Entered: 10/07/2016)
2016-10-0729ORDER granting 28 Motion to Seal Previously filed Document. Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 10/7/2016. (kcm) (Entered: 10/07/2016)
2016-10-2830NOTICE of Association of Counsel by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc. (Semerdjian, Dick)Attorney Dick A Semerdjian added to party Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.(pty:pla) (rlu). (Entered: 10/28/2016)
2016-10-2831RESPONSE in Opposition re 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Declaration of Bonar in Support of Opposition)(Semerdjian, Dick) (rlu). (Entered: 10/28/2016)
2016-11-2332NOTICE of Appearance and Substitution of Counsel by Ryan O. McMonagle on behalf of United States Internal Revenue Service (McMonagle, Ryan)Attorney Ryan O. McMonagle added to party United States Internal Revenue Service(pty:dft) qc email re lacking pos on 11/28/2016 (rlu). (Entered: 11/23/2016)
2016-11-2933CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by United States Internal Revenue Service re 32 Notice of Appearance, (McMonagle, Ryan) (rlu). (Entered: 11/29/2016)
2017-01-1334REPLY to Response to Motion re 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by United States Internal Revenue Service. (McMonagle, Ryan) (Entered: 01/13/2017)
2017-01-2035MINUTE ORDER, Motions Submitted 26 MOTION for Summary Judgment (no document attached) (rfm) (Entered: 01/20/2017)
2017-07-2036ORDER Granting in part and Denying in part Without Prejudice Defendant's 26 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 7/20/2017. (mxn) (Entered: 07/20/2017)
2017-08-1437ORDER Scheduling Case Management Conference. Telephonic Case Management Conference set for 9/14/2017 at 9:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 8/14/2017.(mxn) (Entered: 08/14/2017)
2017-09-1438Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler: Case Management Conference held on 9/14/2017. (Plaintiff Attorneys Ronson Shamoun, Dick Semerdjian, Owen Praskievicz). (Defendant Attorney Ryan McMonagle). (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-1539ORDER Setting Filing Deadline for Motions for Summary Judgment. The Court convened a Case Management Conference on 9/14/2017 at 9:30 a.m. Based on the Court's discussions with counsel, it is hereby ordered that additional cross-motions for summary judgment must be filed on or before 11/15/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 9/15/2017.(mxn) (Entered: 09/15/2017)
2017-11-0940Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment by United States Internal Revenue Service. (McMonagle, Ryan)(mxn). (Entered: 11/09/2017)
2017-11-0941ORDER granting 40 Motion for Extension of Time to File. Cross-motions for summary judgment must be filed on or before 11/29/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on 11/9/2017. (no document attached) (cdc) (Entered: 11/09/2017)
2017-11-2942MOTION for Summary Judgment on Remaining Issues by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Attachments: # 1 Memo of Points and Authorities, # 2 Declaration of Joseph T. Maher, # 3 Declaration of Delphine V. Thomas)(McMonagle, Ryan)(mxn). (Entered: 11/29/2017)
2017-11-2943MOTION for Summary Judgment by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Memo of Points and Authorities, # 2 Declaration, # 3 Proof of Service)(Semerdjian, Dick)(mxn). (Entered: 11/29/2017)
2018-01-1244RESPONSE in Opposition re 42 MOTION for Summary Judgment on Remaining Issues filed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Proof of Service)(Praskievicz, Owen)(mxn). (Entered: 01/12/2018)
2018-01-1245RESPONSE in Opposition re 43 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by United States Internal Revenue Service. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Ryan O. McMonagle)(McMonagle, Ryan)(mxn). (Entered: 01/12/2018)
2018-01-1946***DOCUMENT WITHDRAWN PER 48 NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL*** REPLY to Response to Motion re 42 MOTION for Summary Judgment on Remaining Issues filed by United States Internal Revenue Service. (McMonagle, Ryan) QC email sent re: incorrect event selected (mxn). Modified to withdraw on 1/24/2018 (mxn). (Entered: 01/19/2018)
2018-01-1947REPLY to Response to Motion re 43 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Smart-Tek Automated Services Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Proof of Service)(Praskievicz, Owen)(mxn). (Entered: 01/19/2018)
2018-01-2348NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF DOCUMENT by United States Internal Revenue Service re 46 Reply to Response to Motion filed by United States Internal Revenue Service . (McMonagle, Ryan)(mxn). (Entered: 01/23/2018)
2018-01-2349RESPONSE in Support re 42 MOTION for Summary Judgment on Remaining Issues filed by United States Internal Revenue Service. (McMonagle, Ryan)(mxn). (Entered: 01/23/2018)
2018-01-2650MINUTE ORDER, Motions Submitted 43 MOTION for Summary Judgment , 42 MOTION for Summary Judgment on Remaining Issues (no document attached) (rfm) (Entered: 08/13/2018)
2018-10-2951ORDER OF TRANSFER. This case is transferred from the calendar of the Honorable Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler, to the calendar of the Honorable Linda Lopez for all further proceedings. All conferences or hearing dates previously set before Judge Adler will remain as scheduled and will be before Judge Lopez. Any dates set before any district judge remain unchanged. The new case number is 15-cv-00453-BTM-LL. Signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara Lynn Major on 10/29/2018.(sjm) (Entered: 10/30/2018)
2018-11-2652ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT re ECF Nos. 42 and 43 . Signed by Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz on 11/26/2018. (sjm) (Entered: 11/27/2018)
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