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Not Over Yet: Appeals Court Scolds IRS and Justice Department in Tea Party Targeting Case
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building is viewed in Washington, DC, February 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Not Over Yet: Appeals Court Scolds IRS and Justice Department in Tea Party Targeting Case

The Obama Justice Department cleared the Internal Revenue Service and staffers of any criminal charges in the IRS scandal over the targeting of conservative organizations, but an appeals court rebuked the IRS for it’s “continuous resistance” to provide documents in a class-action lawsuit.

“No citizen — Republican or Democrat, socialist or libertarian — should be targeted or even have to fear being targeted on those grounds,” said the opinion of a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, as reported by the Washington Post. “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.”

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The ruling comes months after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called for the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for refusing to provide documents for a congressional probe of the IRS scandal.

Noting that the inspector general found the IRS used political criteria to target Tea Party groups, the court wrote Tuesday, “Yet in this lawsuit, the IRS has only compounded the conduct that gave rise to it.”

The unanimous ruling by Judge Raymond Kethledge, Judge David McKeague and Judge Damon Keith was the second rebuke of tax-collecting agency and the Justice Department attorneys defending it in the class-action lawsuit led by the NorCal Tea Party.

The lawsuit is separate from the Justice Department investigation and the congressional probe. It seeks damages from the IRS for unfair treatment of various Tea Party and conservative groups. The IRS, defended by Justice Department attorneys, said the privacy laws shield names and other identifying information requested by the plaintiffs.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott first rejected the government's claim and said, “I question whether or not the Department of Justice is doing justice.”

The Justice Department accused the judge of “judicial usurpation,” a charge the appeals court rejected, and again delivered another lecture to the Justice Department.

“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 appeals court said. “The conduct of the IRS’s attorneys in the district court falls outside that tradition.”

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