United States District Court, District of Columbia
WILLIAM E. POWELL, Plaintiff,
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, Defendant.
E. Boasberg United States District Judge.
the years, pro se Plaintiff William E. Powell has
employed a variety of means to require Defendant Internal
Revenue Service to turn over tax records related to his
grandfather, his father, himself, and his family’s
printing business. His lack of success in the latest chapter
of this venture spurred this lawsuit in October 2018. Now, in
his Motion to Supplement his Amended Complaint, Powell
requests leave of the Court to add new claims arising out of
three Freedom of Information Act requests he lodged in
January 2019 and one Privacy Act request from June 2019. At
this stage, Powell’s proposed supplemental claims do
not unduly prejudice Defendant; as a result, the Court will
largely grant his Motion, except as to certain record
requests that have been previously adjudicated.
initially filed this action on October 29, 2018, see
ECF No. 1 (Complaint), and followed up with an Amended
Complaint on February 6, 2019. See ECF No. 9. The
latter pleading encompasses four record requests Powell
submitted to the IRS dated August 9, 2018, August 31, 2018,
September 27, 2018, and November 25, 2018. Id. at
2–3. These sought tax forms concerning his family and
his family’s business – the Powell Printing
Company. Id. at 2– 4. The requests were filed
under FOIA and the Privacy Act via the IRS’s Return and
Income Verification System (RAIVS), id., and
Plaintiff alleged that Defendant unlawfully withheld records.
Id. at 2–4. This is not Powell’s first
foray into the realm of FOIA and Privacy Act litigation.
Indeed, he has filed a number of lawsuits in this Court and
the Eastern District of Michigan seeking to unearth records
relating to his family members and himself. See,
e.g., Powell v. IRS, 255 F.Supp.3d 33, 37
now to the current suit, the Court notes that on February 27,
2019, it stayed the proceedings to give the parties an
opportunity to attempt to resolve their dispute outside the
courtroom. See Minute Order of Feb. 27, 2019. No
progress resulted, and the Court thus lifted the stay on May
2, 2019. See Minute Order of May 2, 2019. Powell
promptly filed a Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental
Complaint on May 7. See ECF No. 17. The Motion
proposed new FOIA and Privacy Act claims regarding additional
RAIVS requests dated January 9, 2019, and January 27, 2019 -
seeking tax forms for his father and grandfather.
Id. at 2–3. The Court, however, denied this
Motion on that same day because it did not comply with Local
Civil Rules 7(m) and 15.1. See Minute Order of May
then answered the Amended Complaint on July 17,
2019. See ECF No. 20. The parties were thereafter
ordered to submit a joint briefing schedule by August 1,
2019. See Minute Order of July 18, 2019. Without
submitting the schedule, Powell filed a second Motion for
Leave to File a Supplemental Complaint on August 1, 2019.
See ECF No. 21. This Motion reasserted his January 9
and January 27 RAIVS requests and added a Privacy Act request
dated June 3, 2019, which demanded his own tax forms.
Id. at 3. This Motion, which Defendant opposes, is
the one currently before the Court.
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d) allows the Court, “[o]n
motion and reasonable notice . . . [and] on just terms”
to permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting
forth events that have happened since the filing of its
complaint. “Rule 15(d) is used to set forth new facts
that update the original pleading or provide the basis for
additional relief; to put forward new claims or defenses
based on events that took place after the original complaint
or answer was filed.” United States v. Hicks,
283 F.3d 380, 386 (D.C. Cir. 2002). “The addition of
[a] new FOIA request is plainly a supplemental pleading as
defined by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d), as it
‘sets forth transactions or occurrences or events which
have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be
supplemented.’” Hall v. CIA, 437 F.3d
94, 100 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d)).
15(d)’s intent is “to make pleadings a means to
achieve an orderly and fair administration of justice.”
Gomez v. Wilson, 477 F.2d 411, 417 n.34 (D.C. Cir.
1973) (quoting Griffin v. County School Bd., 377
U.S. 218, 227 (1964)). The Rule “promote[s] as complete
an adjudication of the dispute between the parties as is
possible.” Wright & Miller, 6A Fed. Prac. &
Proc. Civ. § 1504 (3d ed. 2017). It seeks “to
avoid ‘needlessly remitt[ing] [plaintiffs] to the
difficulties of commencing a new action even though events
occurring after the commencement of the original action have
made clear the right to relief.’” Scahill v.
District of Columbia, 909 F.3d 1177, 1183 (D.C. Cir.
2018) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d), advisory committee notes
to the 1963 amendment). “It follows that
supplementation of pleadings is encouraged ‘when doing
so will promote the economic and speedy disposition of the
entire controversy between the parties, will not cause undue
delay or trial inconvenience, and will not prejudice the
rights of any of the other parties to the
action.’” U.S. ex rel. Gadbois v. PharMerica
Corp., 809 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting Wright
& Miller, supra).
typically resolve motions to supplement under Rule 15(d) and
motions to amend under Rule 15(a) via the same standard.
See, e.g., Banner Health v. Burwell, 55
F.Supp.3d 1, 8 n.9 (D.D.C. 2014); Wildearth Guardians v.
Kempthorne, 592 F.Supp.2d 18, 23 (D.D.C. 2008). The key
difference between the two Rules is that amendments
“relate to matters that occurred prior to the
filing” of the pleading to be amended, whereas
supplements “set forth transactions or
occurrences or events which have happened
since” that pleading. Hall, 437 F.3d
at 100 (emphasis added) (quoting Hicks, 283 F.3d at
385; then quoting Wright & Miller, supra).
Further, “[s]upplements under Rule 15(d) always require
leave of the court, and the court has broad discretion in
determining whether to allow supplemental pleadings in the
interests of judicial economy and convenience.” The
Fund For Animals v. Hall, 246 F.R.D. 53, 54 (D.D.C.
Courts grant leave to amend or supplement “unless there
is a good reason, such as futility, to the contrary.”
Willoughby v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 100 F.3d 999,
1003 (D.C. Cir. 1996); see also Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (noting that reasons not to permit Rule
15(a) amendment may include “undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, [and]
undue prejudice to the opposing party”). In other
words, if the new causes of action would be deficient as
stated in the proposed supplement, courts need not grant
leave. See In re Interbank Funding Corp. Secs. Lit.,
629 F.3d 213, 218 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (“[A] district court
may properly deny a motion to amend if the amended pleading
would not survive a motion to dismiss.”) (citing
Foman, 371 U.S. at 182, for proposition that
“‘futility of amendment’ is permissible
justification for denying Rule 15(a) motion”);
James Madison Ltd. v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1099
(D.C. Cir. 1996) (“Courts may deny a motion to amend a
complaint as futile . . . if the proposed claim would not
survive a motion to dismiss.”).
opposing Plaintiff’s proposed supplement, the IRS
contends that the counts relating to the newly alleged
requests are either infirm, untimely, or both. The Court will
first consider the January RAIVS requests and then the June
Privacy Act request.