Judge dismisses IRS lawsuit brought by True the Vote, a not-for-profit Texas corporation, which was allegedly caught up in the tax exempt scandal.
Judge Reggie B. Walton said that the case was no longer relevant since the IRS eventually approved tax-exempt status for the group in question, according to FOX News. He added that the IRS has said it has taken steps to address the alleged targeting of conservative groups. The organization originally applied for tax exempt status on July 15, 2010.
While the judge dismisses the IRS lawsuit, the organization asked Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to inquire on their behalf. A few months later, the IRS asked True the Vote to provide additional information about its application. After furnishing the information to the agency, True the Vote was asked for more information, which prompted a third letter asking for even more information.
When the tax exempt organization scandal broke, True the Vote filed suit, calling the scheme “unlawful.” In the time that passed since the filing of the lawsuit and today’s ruling, True the Vote was granted tax-exempt status and the IRS has discontinued use of the BOLO lists and other targeting measures. That essentially makes the lawsuit moot meaning that the underlying controversy which triggered the lawsuit is no longer an issue; True the Vote doesn’t disagree.
So because the IRS eventually granted proper 501(c)(3) status to True the Vote, there’s no need to hold IRS officials accountable for inappropriately targeting the group, according to Townhall.com. The publication also makes a point that no justice or reconciliation for the damage done during the delay is “an absolute shame and horrible precedent to set.”
“Not to mention, IRS abuse will continue if there are no consequences for the illegal behavior and decisions that were made.”
As the judge dismisses the IRS lawsuit, one can’t help but review the court documents. True the Vote asked for damages as part of a “Bivens claim.” Bivens claims or Bivens remedies are linked to a 1971 Supreme Court case, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which allowed an individual to be compensated due to a violation of Fourth Amendment rights by federal drug agents when no other remedy was available. However, the court found that a remedy was already available to True the Vote; quoting Judge Oberdorfer in Church By Mail, Inc. v. United States, No. 87-cv-0754-LFO, 1988 WL 8271, the court agreed that “[i]t would make the collection of taxes chaotic if a taxpayer could bypass the remedies provided by Congress simply by bringing a damage action against [IRS] employees.”
With that reasoning, Judge Walton dismissed the complaint. And he wasn’t done yet: Judge Walton also dismissed a second lawsuit brought by Linchpins of Liberty on similar grounds, writing that “the allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct, which had delayed the processing of the plaintiffs’ tax-exempt applications and spawned this litigation, is no longer impacting the plaintiffs.” The Linchpins of Liberty suit involved 40 additional groups.
It’s important to understand that Judge Walton, a Presidential Bush nominee to the court, did not rule on the merits of the case. He didn’t decide that the IRS conduct was okay or that no harm was done. He ruled, rather, that procedurally, the case had nowhere to go.
While the judge dismisses the IRS lawsuit, the agency did admit in 2013 that it delayed the approval of tax exemptions for Tea Party groups based solely on the name of the group, USA Today notes. Several criminal and congressional investigations into the matter are still ongoing, and the former IRS official responsible for exempt organizations, Lois Lerner, has been found in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the targeting.