Shannahan v. Internal Revenue Service

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 03-13-2012
  • Case #: 10-35204; 10-35244
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge W. Fletcher for the court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

The IRS properly denied a Freedom of Information Act request from an attorney, representing fugitives, who was seeking information related to his client's civil case because disclosure would seriously undermine the Federal Tax Administration and would interfere with law enforcement purposes.

William Shannahan filed a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request with the IRS seeking all information pertaining to his clients who were fugitives living in China as a result of their failure to appear in a conspiracy case. The IRS denied the request and Shannahan filed suit in district court. The IRS moved for summary judgment and the district court denied the motion and ordered a Vaughn index be prepared. After the index was prepared and additional declarations were filed by the IRS, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the IRS on all counts. Shannahan appealed. The Ninth Circuit noted that the exemptions relied upon in this case required that there be evidence that disclosure of the requested material would seriously undermine the Federal Tax Administration and interfere with law enforcement proceedings. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court correctly found exemption 3 to be applicable based upon the finding that many of the documents were return information under 26 USC 6103 and as such were confidential. The Ninth Circuit further held that exemption 7(A) was applicable due to declarations of the IRS stating that confidential informants contributed to the substance of the documents and their disclosure might harm a criminal investigation. AFFIRMED.

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