Appeals Court issues nightmare decision for Lois Lerner and the IRS

The wheels of justice slowly have been turning, and those of us who feared that Lois Lerner and the IRS would get off scot-free despite their lawless targeting of Tea Party groups have something to celebrate. And Lois Lerner may have had a troubled sleep last night if she was paying attention instead of enjoying her six-figure pension with leisure activities.

An appeals court judge in the Sixth Circuit has delivered a blistering rebuke to both the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department attorneys that have defended it in behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel. As a result, officials current and former will be forced to testify under oath for their misdeeds in a civil action with big bucks at stake.  Stephen Dinan reports in the Washington Times:

A federal appeals court spanked the IRS Tuesday, saying it has taken laws designed to protect taxpayers from the government and turned them on their head, using them to try to protect the tax agency from the very tea party groups it targeted.

The judges ordered the IRS to quickly turn over the full list of groups it targeted so that a class-action lawsuit, filed by the NorCal Tea Party Patriots, can proceed. The judges also accused the Justice Department lawyers, who are representing the IRS in the case, of acting in bad faith — compounding the initial targeting — by fighting the disclosure.

The IRS had been claiming that release of the list of groups it targeted would violate their privacy. This is the bad faith the appeals court rebuked. And the release of the names will enable the class to be certified, so that a class action lawsuit can proceed.

Normally, sovereign immunity enables federal government to go un punished for harmful behavior, but if malfeasance can be proven, I suspect that individuals like Lerner can be personally sued by the class. I am no lawyer, but this is my general understanding of the way sovereign immunity has its limits. 

The language used by the judge is startling:

“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,” Judge Raymond Kethledge wrote in a unanimous opinion for a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “We expect that the IRS will do better going forward.”

I wonder if complaints can be filed against the individual DoJ lawyers who misbehaved?

Now, discovery can begin in the case, which means opening up internal documents and taking testimony under oath.

Edward Greim, a lawyer at Graves Garrett who is representing NorCal Patriots, said they should be able to get a better idea of the IRS‘ decision-making once they see the list of groups that was targeted.

“What we’ll be able to see is how, starting in the spring of 2010, with the first one or two groups the IRS targeted, we’ll be able to see that number grow, and we’ll even be able to see at the tail end their possible covering up that conduct,” he said.

He said they suspect the IRS, aware that the inspector general was looking into the tax agency’s behavior, began adding in other groups to try to muddle the perception that only conservatives were being targeted.

Let’s see what the memos and emails say. If there is something to the effect of "we'd better get some other groups on the list," that woudl demonstrate a conspiracy. Unless, of course, they were “accidentally” destroyed, but then again, people can be placed under oath. And they can’t be sure what evidence remains.

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