A George W. Bush appointed federal court judge sided with the Internal Revenue Service against Tea Party groups that sought a redress of grievances against the federal agency for targeting them concerning their tax-exempt status.
Washington, DC District judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the lawsuits filed by True the Vote and Linchpins of Liberty, along with another 41 other conservative groups said their lawsuit was moot because the IRS had “publicly suspended its targeting scheme.”
The fact that the judge refers to the IRS targeting as a “scheme” says volumes about its illegality. Second, since Judge Walton acknowledges it as a scheme, the fact that the IRS suspended their unlawful actions because citizens shined the light on it still demands that a just ruling be given.
The groups plan to file an appeal in the case.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law & Justice, said he would file an appeal on their behalf. “The decision by the court is disappointing. However, it does not deter our efforts to seek justice for our clients. We are reviewing the decision and plan to appeal.”
According to ACLJ’s Matthew Clark, “the court’s ruling is based on what we believe is a mistaken interpretation of the law that would allow corruption to continue unfettered at the highest levels of federal government and deny justice to those who had their constitutional rights violated.”
The merits of the case were never ruled on by the court. Clark points out that the judge stated in his memorandum opinion, “The Court’s opinion should not be interpreted as an assessment of the propriety of the alleged conduct by the defendants, as resolution of the motions does not require an assessment of the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.”
He then laid out that the court threw out remaining counts of the lawsuit based on rulings that could lead to “dangerous results.”
First, despite the level of wrongdoing alleged, the trial court bought into the Obama Administration’s argument in its motion to dismiss that IRS officials involved in targeting Americans for the political beliefs should receive “qualified immunity.” In other words, the court held that Lois Lerner and other top IRS officials named in our lawsuit cannot be held accountable in their individual capacity for decisions made in targeting conservatives as part of their “official” duties at the IRS. The obvious danger this leads to is that it would be almost impossible to ever hold IRS officials specifically accountable for targeting individuals and abusing the immense power of the IRS.
Second, the trial court relied on the Obama Administration’s assurances that the targeting had been stopped. It focused almost entirely on the “BOLO” list, ignoring the years-long (and in some cases still ongoing) delay in approvals and intentional demands for unconstitutionally invasive information from conservative groups. It essentially held that since the IRS stopped using the “BOLO” lists to target conservatives, eventually (after years of delay and numerous lawsuits) approved most of the groups, and promised not to do it again, there is nothing left for the court to decide. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the reality.
Of the 41 groups represented by the ACLJ, 28 organizations received their tax-exempt status after exorbitantly lengthy and arbitrary delays (in fact two of them were only approved last week). However 7 of the groups still have applications pending with the IRS. Remember, many of these groups applied back in 2010, over four years ago, and it was not until May 2013 that the IRS even admitted to targeting and holding them up. That’s years and years of intentional delay. 5 of our clients withdrew their applications after utter frustration with the IRS process, the delays, the targeting, and the intrusive questions, and 1 group had its file closed by the IRS after refusing to answer unconstitutionally intrusive questions. The court’s opinion further leads to the conclusion that because there is no congressionally specified length of time in which 501(c)(4) applications (which most but not all of the targeted groups were) must be ruled on by the IRS, there is no remedy for these organizations. The IRS could essentially continue sitting on their applications in perpetuity without judicial recourse.
Finally, the court ruled that the IRS’s demand for unconstitutionally impermissible donor lists and other information does not violate the law.
If the federal government can unconstitutionally target a group of citizens for their beliefs with the overwhelming power of the IRS and as long as it promises not to do it again, even though it is still harassing many of the original targets, it can get away with it, that would lead to a whole host of unmitigated abuse the likes of which we have never seen. In fact, by the court’s reasoning, the IRS could refuse to approve a group for years until it is sued and then approve the group at the last minute with no recourse to those targeted Americans. Remember, justice delayed is justice denied.
In an interview with the Daily Signal, Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said, “It’s a disappointing ruling because it basically leaves targets of bad behavior by the IRS without a remedy.”
He would also address letting the IRS off the hook in this matter simply because they have “suspended” this criminal activity. “While the IRS might correct such behavior by publicly renouncing it, the employees who engage in wrongdoing can retire and collect their pension or simply get transferred to another office or division within the IRS and keep getting their salary paid by the same American taxpayers they have wronged. And that is wrong.”
Catherine Engelbrecht, who founded True the Vote and was harassed while testifying about being harassed by the IRS, said that she was stunned by the ruling and added, “The notion that the IRS can target Americans for years because of their political beliefs is reprehensible.”
“The court acknowledges in its opinion that the IRS did in fact target True the Vote for our perceived political beliefs, but then it holds that neither the agency nor the individual IRS agents or officers are responsible for this unconstitutional conduct,” she added. “Right now, we are considering all legal options and will announce our next steps very soon.”
Keep in mind, this same judge issued a preliminary injunction against the government on behalf of Tyndale House Publishing in a case regarding the Obamacare mandate. He was also instrumental in demanding that the IRS provide a written affidavit under penalty of perjury by an IRS IT professional with firsthand knowledge of the loss of emails from the federal agency. So, the question is why would he simply dismiss a case because criminal activity was made public and had been suspended, even though it was reported that targeting had continued long after it was made public?
The corruption of the government, including the courts, is simply incredible. The fact that the court acknowledges that the IRS was engaged in a scheme against the citizens of the US, but throw out a legitimate lawsuit against the agency due to the fact that the IRS went public and suspended its actions makes a mockery of law and only emboldens tyranny. I’m glad to hear these groups aren’t standing down in the face of such lawlessness.