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Case TitleMIDDLE EAST FORUM v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv02010
Date Filed2017-09-29
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge John D. Bates
PlaintiffMIDDLE EAST FORUM
Case DescriptionThe Middle East Forum submitted a FOIA request to the IRS for records concerning a possible criminal investigation of Islamic Relief USA. The Middle East Forum told the agency that it was not requesting tax return information. The IRS interpreted the request as one for tax return information and refused to process it. The Middle East Forum then filed suit.
Complaint issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
DefendantINTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Opinion/Order [11]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge John Bates has ruled that the IRS must conduct a search for non-tax return-related records concerning Islamic Relief USA. The Middle East Forum requested communications between the IRS Office of Criminal Investigation and other agencies concerning Islamic Relief USA. The agency declined to search without third-party authorization because it concluded the records constituted protected tax return information. MEF appealed, arguing that some of the responsive records did not constitute tax return information. The IRS refused once again to search and MEF filed suit. Bates sided with MEF. He noted that "even if the IRS was justified in rejecting MEF's initial FOIA request as imperfect, MEF's response (whether it constituted an appeal or a renewed request) clarified that the request was for any information not protected by statute. A 'liberal interpretation' of MEF's request indicates that MEF was seeking only non-'return information' and that no third-party authorization was therefore required." Bates faulted the agency for providing a single affidavit supporting its position. He pointed out that "without a more detailed explanation of the IRS's process in determining that all information responsive to MEF's request would be protected information, this affidavit is insufficient to support the IRS's motion. This is all the more true because the IRS seeks not to withhold information on a summary judgment motion after a search, but rather to dismiss MEF's claim without conducting a search in the first place. It is difficult to take the IRS at its word that all information responsive to MEF's request would fall within the return information exception when the IRS has not run a search to see if that is, indeed, the case." The IRS argued that MEF's request did not sufficiently describe the records sought. Bates observed that "the IRS claims that MEF's request was not reasonably specific because it did not include Islamic Relief USA's taxpayer identification number or location, or the system of records to be searched. However, MEF's request included the name of the group, subject matter, IRS office where responsive files would be found, date range, and the types of records sought." He added that "here, the IRS never requested additional information beyond the authorization form, and its immediate identification of 'all of the information. . .requested' as 'return information' indicates that the request sufficiently identified the records MEF sought." The agency contended that denying MEF's request because it did not provide a third-party authorization was not appealable. Bates disagreed, noting that "because MEF disputes that the information it sought in the request was protected return information, it had 'no choice but to refuse to provide the consent and appeal the IRS's determination.' Given that MEF has filed a perfected FOIA request, and has not failed to exhaust the administrative process, the IRS must conduct the request search."
Issues: Adequacy - Search, Request - Perfected request
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-09-291COMPLAINT against INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, TREASURY DEPARTMENT ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5137384) filed by MIDDLE EAST FORUM. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons to IRS, # 3 Summons to Treasury, # 4 Summons to US Attorney, # 5 Summons to Attorney General)(Hardin, Matthew) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-29Case Assigned to Judge John D. Bates. (zsb) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-292SUMMONS (4) Issued Electronically as to INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Consent Form)(zsb) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-10-153RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 10/10/2017. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 11/9/2017. (Hardin, Matthew) (Entered: 10/15/2017)
2017-11-094MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Hoffman-Logsdon, Megan) (Entered: 11/09/2017)
2017-11-09MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of 4 the government's unopposed motion for extension of time to answer, and the entire record herein, it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED; it is further ORDERED that defendants shall file their answer by not later than November 30, 2017. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 11/09/2017. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 11/09/2017)
2017-11-13Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 11/30/2017. (tb) (Entered: 11/13/2017)
2017-11-305MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Hoffman-Logsdon, Megan) (Entered: 11/30/2017)
2017-11-30MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of 5 defendants' unopposed motion for extension of time to file answer, and the entire record herein, it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED; it is further ORDERED that defendants shall file their answer or other responsive pleading by not later than December 7, 2017. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 11/30/2017. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 11/30/2017)
2017-12-01Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 12/7/2017. (tb) (Entered: 12/01/2017)
2017-12-076NOTICE of Appearance by Chaim Mandelbaum on behalf of MIDDLE EAST FORUM (Mandelbaum, Chaim) (Main Document 6 replaced on 12/8/2017) (znmw). (Entered: 12/07/2017)
2017-12-077MOTION to Withdraw as Attorney by MIDDLE EAST FORUM (Hardin, Matthew) (Entered: 12/07/2017)
2017-12-078MOTION to Dismiss by INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit A, # 3 Exhibit B, # 4 Exhibit C, # 5 Exhibit D, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(Hoffman-Logsdon, Megan) (Entered: 12/07/2017)
2017-12-08MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of 7 Matthew D. Hardin's motion to withdraw as counsel for plaintiff, and the entire record herein, it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED; it is further ORDERED that Mr. Hardin's appearance in this case is terminated. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 12/8/2017. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 12/08/2017)
2017-12-219RESPONSE re 8 MOTION to Dismiss filed by MIDDLE EAST FORUM. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Mandelbaum, Chaim) (Entered: 12/21/2017)
2018-07-0310ORDER granting in part and denying in part 8 defendant IRS's motion to dismiss. See text of order and accompanying Memorandum Opinion for details. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 7/3/2018. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 07/03/2018)
2018-07-0311MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 7/3/2018. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 07/03/2018)
2018-07-05Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/17/2018. (tb) (Entered: 07/05/2018)
2018-09-0712MOTION for Reconsideration re 10 Order on Motion to Dismiss by INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (Hoffman-Logsdon, Megan) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
2018-09-1713Joint STATUS REPORT by INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY. (Hoffman-Logsdon, Megan) (Entered: 09/17/2018)
2018-10-0914MINUTE ORDER: It is hereby ORDERED that a status conference is SCHEDULED for October 22, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 30. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 10/9/2018. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 10/09/2018)
2018-10-09Set/Reset Hearings: Status Conference set for 10/22/2018 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 30A before Judge John D. Bates. (znbn) (Entered: 10/09/2018)
2018-10-22Minute Entry: Status Conference held on 10/22/2018 before Judge John D. Bates. (Court Reporter Bryan Wayne) (tb) (Entered: 10/22/2018)
2018-11-0215Upon consideration of 13 the parties' joint status report, the parties' positions at the status conference on October 22, 2018, and the entire record herein, it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiff shall show cause by not later than November 19, 2018, why this case should not be dismissed as moot; it is further ordered that defendants may file a response by not later than December 3, 2018; and it is further ordered that plaintiff's memorandum, and defendants' response, each shall not exceed 7 pages. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 11/2/2018. (lcjdb2) (Entered: 11/02/2018)
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