During the Western Journalism Center’s appeal of its case against the
Internal Revenue Service, judges for the
9th Circuit Court of
Appeals questioned a U.S. Justice Department attorney who had attempted to argue that “no legal remedy” exists for non-profit organizations targeted by the IRS for politically-motivated audits.
Senior Circuit Judge Melvin Brunetti and Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Pamela Ann Rymer heard oral arguments Thursday in San Francisco for the Western Journalism Center’s case against the IRS over a
politically-motivated audit performed against the organization in 1996. A lower court dismissed the case more than a year ago.
“We were very pleased with the way the court understood the case,” said Judicial Watch’s Larry Klayman, who represents the Western Journalism Center, founded by WorldNetDaily Editor and CEO Joseph Farah. “It was clear from the reaction of the judges that they believe there is legal remedy for politically-motivated IRS actions, despite the fact that Justice Department lawyers have claimed otherwise.”
Rymer questioned the government’s attorney, saying, “I would suppose that you would agree that it is outrageous for the tax power and the IRS to be used for any political purpose.”
Stating her belief that the IRS was not acting out of political retribution, the lawyer replied that if such an action had been performed, “I would agree that it’s outrageous, and I would also … state that there is not cause of action,” meaning WJC could do nothing about it.
According to Klayman, other courts, including the 10th Circuit, have ruled a cause of action does indeed exist in such cases. For the sake of argument, however, Rymer continued, asking, “Do you think that it should go completely without remedy if the Internal Revenue Service is used against an individual or against a non-profit entity which is politically anathema to the administration?”
“Well, it isn’t up to me. It’s up to Congress,” the Justice Department lawyer answered.
Dozens of non-profit organizations critical of the Clinton administration were audited during the 1990s, in addition to WJC. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton believes the IRS’ actions in such cases “ought to be front-page headlines across the nation.”
The court must now decide whether WJC’s case should be allowed to come to trial. Fitton and Klayman discussed the case during their weekly radio talk show Saturday. Both are optimistic about the court’s impending ruling.
“It was clear, I think, from the way the judges reacted to the IRS lawyer … that they weren’t all that comfortable with it (politically-motivated audits) either,” Fitton said Saturday.
The Western Journalism Cener is seeking $10 million for First Amendment violations and damage to its reputation caused by the audit, which in turn served to reduce donations — the organization’s only source of income.
An audio-recording of last week’s court proceeding can be heard through
Judicial Watch’s website.