The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") has lost an attorney fee decision under the new attorney fee provisions of the 2007 Amendments to the FOIA. The case comes from the Eastern District of Arkansas and was brought by Neil Dieninger of the law firm of Dieninger and Wingfield seeking materials disseminated to Arkansas IRS employees at a 2007 training in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The IRS kicked the request around like a hot potato for months, disclosure offices throughout the country tried to get other offices to take responsibility for the request. Eventually the plaintiff got tired of waiting and filed suit. After the complaint was filed over a thousand pages of material were released and the only issue before the court was whether the plaintiff was entitled to attorney fees in this matter.
The court found that the plaintiff was entitled to and eligible for attorney fees under the new FOIA attorney fee provisions because the filing of the complaint prompted the release of the documents. Under the old standard, plaintiff would have probably needed a court order in his favor before attorney fees could be granted by the court.
Another interesting point in the case was that Dieninger brought the suit in his name and also his law firm. The IRS argued that a law firm couldn't receive fees for a suit brought by itself. However, the IRS had admitted the paragraph in the complaint that said that Dieninger was bringing the suit on the law firm's behalf, thereby defeating their own later argument. This of course is a good primer for attorneys in responding to complaints as you'll never know what statements that really seem harmless at one point can hurt later on.
The case can be found here: Download Attorney fee award