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Satterlee v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

May 23, 2019

RONALD LEROY SATTERLEE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DISCLOSURE OFFICER, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Internal Revenue Service (“Defendant”)'s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) (“the Motion”). (Doc. 13.) The Motion is fully briefed. (Docs. 14, 15, 16, 17.)[1] After careful consideration, the Motion is GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED.

         Background

         Plaintiff Ronald Satterlee (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) and the Privacy Act. The FOIA confers jurisdiction to district courts to enjoin an agency from withholding agency records and to order the release of any agency records improperly withheld. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). The Privacy Act establishes a procedure for fair information practices for records concerning individuals maintained by federal agencies. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a). Plaintiff wrote four letters to Defendant seeking various information and documents utilizing the FOIA and the Privacy Act. (Doc. 1.)

- June 19, 2017 Request:
This request sought “Original Copies of the ‘Original' Liens'” for the 1998 through 2004 and 2006 through 2011 tax years. (Doc. 14-1.) Defendant responded to this letter on July 31, 2017. (Doc. 14-3.) Defendant's response indicated that the “‘original' lien is a concept, not a paper document, ” and as a result, Defendant did not find any documents specifically responsive to Plaintiff's request. (Id.) Defendant's response also stated that all notices of liens for the requested tax years were previously provided to Plaintiff in response to a separate FOIA request. (Id.) Defendant's response concluded by stating that Satterlee had the right to file an administrative appeal, and enclosed a Notice 393, which further explained Plaintiff's appeal rights. (Id.) Defendant has no record of receiving an administrative appeal of the June 19, 2017 Request. (Doc. 14.)
- June 20, 2017 Request:
This request seeks “[c]op[ies] of Original ‘Demand' Document stipulated on ‘Notice of Federal Tax Lien' which alleges ‘Lawful' Service of Process, provides full and complete disclosure, ‘in good faith' and ‘Lawfully' complies with statement, ‘We have made a demand for payment . . .'” for the 1998 through 2004 and 2006 through 2011 tax years. (Doc. 14-6.) Defendant responded to this request on August 1, 2017. Defendant's response indicated that the requested “[d]emand notices are systematically issued (computer generated) and no paper documents exist, ” and as a result, the Service was unable to provide the records requested. (Doc. 14-7.) Defendant's response also informed Plaintiff of his appeal rights. (Id.) Defendant has no record of receiving an administrative appeal of the June 20, 2017 Request.
- August 28, 2017 Request:
Defendant treated the August 28, 2017 Request as a new FOIA request because it requested new information. The August 28, 2017 Request asked that Defendant's Disclosure Manager, Ronald Mele, “confirm and make responsive statement that there has been no IRS notice and demand made for or during years 1998-2004 and 2006-2011.” (Doc. 14.) Defendant responded on September 14, 2017, and denied Plaintiff's request stating Defendant is “not required to create records, provide explanations, or answer questions in response to a FOIA request.” (Doc. 14-9.)
- August 13, 2018 Request:
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges he sent another FOIA request dated August 13, 2018 (“Alleged August 13 Request”). (Doc. 1-2.) The Alleged August 13 Request sough “a copy of ANY MF STAT-21 shown on the Transcript of Account for tax years 1998-2004 and 2006-2011.” (Id.) Plaintiff attached a copy of the Alleged August 13 Request to his Complaint. Defendant argues the request it received was dated August 13, 2018, but it was substantively different than the Alleged August 13, 2018 Request Plaintiff provided with his Complaint (“Actual August 13 Request”).[2] Defendant argues the Actual August 13 Request is different because it sought the identification of the type of taxes that were referenced in the “Notice of Federal Tax Lien” documents for the years 1998-2004 and 2006-2011, while the Alleged August 13 Request sought MF STAT-21 documents. (Doc. 14-10.) Defendant has no record of receipt of the Alleged August 13 Request.

         Legal Standard

         “A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges the federal court's subject matter jurisdiction over a cause of action.” Knox v. St. Louis City Sch. Dist., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 209123, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 12, 2018). “Subject matter jurisdiction is the power of a federal court to decide the claim before it. Id. (citing Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortg. Corp., 137 S.Ct. 553, 562 (2017)). “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Federal courts retain the power to hear cases only if authorized to do so by both the Constitution and by statute. Id. “Generally speaking, a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction over a case must be based on either [a] federal question . . . or ...


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