TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

IRS Scandal, Day 1049:  6th Circuit Slams IRS Treatment Of Tea Party Group

IRS Logo 2United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patiots, No. 15-3793 (6th Cir. Mar. 22, 2016)

Among the most serious allegations a federal court can address are that an Executive agency has targeted

Yet in this lawsuit the IRS has only compounded the conduct that gave rise to it. The plaintiffs seek damages on behalf of themselves and other groups whose applications the IRS treated in the manner described by the Inspector General. The lawsuit has progressed as slowly as the underlying applications themselves: at every turn the IRS has resisted the plaintiffs’ requests for information regarding the IRS’s treatment of the plaintiff class, eventually to the open frustration of the district court. At issue here are IRS “Be On the Lookout” lists of organizations allegedly targeted for unfavorable treatment because of their political beliefs. Those organizations in turn make up the plaintiff class. The district court ordered production of those lists, and did so again over an IRS motion to reconsider. Yet, almost a year later, the IRS still has not complied with the court’s orders. Instead the IRS now seeks from this court a writ of mandamus, an extraordinary remedy reserved to correct only the clearest abuses of power by a district court. We deny the petition.

Citizens for mistreatment based on their political views. No citizen—Republican or Democrat, socialist or libertarian—should be targeted or even have to fear being targeted on those grounds. Yet those are the grounds on which the plaintiffs allege they were mistreated by the IRS here. The allegations are substantial: most are drawn from findings made by the Treasury Department’s own Inspector General for Tax Administration. Those findings include that the IRS used political criteria to round up applications for tax-exempt status filed by so-called tea-party groups; that the IRS often took four times as long to process tea-party applications as other applications; and that the IRS served tea-party applicants with crushing demands for what the Inspector General called “unnecessary information.” ...

In closing, we echo the district court’s observations about this case. The lawyers in the Department of Justice have a long and storied tradition of defending the nation’s interests and enforcing its laws—all of them, not just selective ones—in a manner worthy of the Department’s name. The conduct of the IRS’s attorneys in the district court falls outside that tradition. We expect that the IRS will do better going forward. And we order that the IRS comply with the district court’s discovery orders of April 1 and June 16, 2015—without redactions, and without further delay.  

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Comments

Finally. The wheel turns slowly, but it eventually gets there.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Mar 23, 2016 5:35:50 AM

without redactions, and without further delay.

"Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are."

Posted by: AMTbuff | Mar 23, 2016 7:38:44 AM

If the courts made a Summary Judgment for the plaintiffs and awarded Gawker sized awards to individual plantiffs, maybe (but I doubt it) there would be some change, but there's no personal accountability here for the violators of 1st Amendment (One Amendment for you Trumpkins) rights. People need to be in jail for these actions, and that's just not going to happen.

Posted by: dj | Mar 23, 2016 8:00:25 AM

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 23, 2016 10:00:09 AM

The stonewalling and coverup shows that the actions at the IRS were the actions of the entire administration.

Posted by: wodun | Mar 23, 2016 8:05:16 PM