Thomas Montgomery v. IRS, No. 21-5168 (D.C. Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
In the district court, Appellants brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service for its responses to the Appellants’ twelve Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment to the IRS on all issues. Appellants appealed the district court’s order awarding summary judgment to the IRS, as well as seven opinions and orders supporting the order.
Appellants set forth three procedural arguments averring that the IRS is barred from asserting a Glomar Response to Requests 1–5: (1) collateral estoppel; (2) judicial estoppel; and (3) the official acknowledgment doctrine. Appellants argued that the IRS benefitted from its argument to the Fifth Circuit that no informant existed, resulting in favorable evidentiary and statute of limitations rulings, and thus the IRS cannot now change its position that no informant exists.
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that the IRS’s Glomar Response to the existence of whistleblower documents, as requested by the Appellants in FOIA Requests 1–5, does not bear on its prior position in the Fifth Circuit cases regarding the existence of a whistleblower. Since the IRS’s positions are not inconsistent, the IRS is not judicially estopped from its Glomar Response. Further, the court held that the official acknowledgment doctrine does not apply to Appellants’ argument because the IRS did not officially acknowledge in any prior proceeding that it did, or did not, possess records pertaining to potential informants, the subject of Requests 1–5.