TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1657: Lois Lerner Fears Retaliation If Her Tea Party Targeting Deposition Is Made Public 

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, Lois Lerner Doesn’t Trust You: “You Can’t Handle the Truth,” the Former IRS Official Tells the American People:

In his courtroom apologia in the film “A Few Good Men,” Jack Nicholson’s Col. Nathan Jessup made the words famous. Now, in her bid to keep her testimony in a recently settled tea-party lawsuit against the IRS secret, Lois Lerner has picked up the Jessup argument: “You can’t handle the truth!”

They used different words but the meaning is the same. Here’s how lawyers for Ms. Lerner and her former IRS deputy, Holly Paz, put it in a filing aimed at persuading a judge to keep their testimony from becoming public: “Public dissemination of their deposition testimony would expose them and their families to harassment and a credible risk of violence and physical harm.” They’re not just thinking of themselves, they add. Young children, family members, might be hurt too.

That’s quite an argument. So enraged would the American public become upon learning what Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz said that they and those around them would be in physical peril. Which probably makes most people wonder what the heck must the two have said that would get everyone so agitated? ...

[W]hat a crippling precedent it would be if government officials from powerful agencies such as the IRS were permitted to keep their abuses secret on grounds they fear that the people whom they are supposed to serve might be upset if they found out.

There can be good reasons to keep a deposition sealed, from ensuring the privacy of the innocent to protecting the life of a mafia informant. But Ms. Lerner is no innocent. Indeed, given all the falsehoods that have been spread in an effort to whitewash what the IRS had done, the case for transparency becomes even more compelling here. ...

[I]n this case the plaintiffs, the government and a newspaper all say they are for disclosure. Is a judge really going to buy Ms. Lerner’s argument that the American people can’t handle the truth?

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/11/the-irs-scandal-day-1656-lois-lerner-fears-retaliation-if-her-tea-party-targeting-deposition-is-made.html

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Comments

Lerner couldn't have thought about those possible consequences when deciding whether or not she would do and say what she did and said? Perhpas those are the kind of consequences that should have raised red flags and set off alarm bells in her mind and made her question the ethics of what she did.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Nov 21, 2017 4:08:00 AM

Lois don't worry! It is very common for criminals to fear retribution or their crimes!

Posted by: Moron | Nov 21, 2017 6:01:38 AM

It is very difficult to posit circumstances under which this relief should be granted. Presumably, in formulating its position favoring disclosure, the DOJ has already considered and balanced the public interest in disclosure against Lerner’s desire for confidentiality and has rejected Lerner's position. Only very weighty reasons should cause a court to conclude the contrary. BTW, fans of "A Few Good Men" know what happened to Col. Jessup.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Nov 21, 2017 6:40:52 AM

When people are targeted for harassment based on their campaign donations, it is hard to argue that even more partisan acts would not risk harassment or worse. It's almost as if there were a flaw in the whole strategy of forcing disclosure then encouraging harassment based on that disclosure.

I say there is a right to privacy for all political acts, including contributions. It's right there in our living Constitution. But political acts performed as paid employees of the public? Not so much.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Nov 21, 2017 6:43:30 AM

I'm all broken up about her rights, and the generous retirement package she kept after pleading the 5th...

Posted by: MM | Nov 21, 2017 7:20:14 AM

Why don't the plaintiffs release it before there is a court order prohibiting them from doing so?

Posted by: Greg N | Nov 21, 2017 8:10:00 AM

I would happily swap sealing her deposition for a felony conviction, a nice 10+ year federal prison sentence and a complete loss of governmental retirement benefits.

It would only be fair.

Posted by: dachuckster | Nov 21, 2017 8:20:39 AM

These comments, not to mention those on the Fox and WSJ articles, make it clear that Ms. Lerner is justified her fear of unaccountable violence.

Posted by: Matt | Nov 21, 2017 10:09:57 AM