IRS Must Turn Over List of Targeted Tea Party Groups to Allow for Class Action Lawsuit, Appeals Court Rules

(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)A security camera hangs near a corner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, May 27, 2015. Tax return information for about 100,000 U.S. taxpayers was illegally accessed by cyber criminals over the past four months, U.S. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of data thefts that have alarmed American consumers.

A Federal district court has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to hand over data and information concerning the several conservative and tea party nonprofit organizations the nation's tax collecting agency targeted for unfair scrutiny.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Court instructed the IRS Tuesday to provide the court with a list of all the organizations that the agency mistreated because of its political bias so those affected can file a class-action lawsuit and seek damages from the IRS.

Although a federal district court had already ordered the IRS to disclose the list, the agency contended that it could not release the information because of a general rule that states "returns and return information shall be confidential."

The IRS filed a petition for a writ of mandamus from the appellate court so that it would not have to disclose that information. The 6th Circuit Court, however, did not buy the agency's defense and found its behavior deplorable.

"Among the most serious allegations a federal court can address are that an executive agency has targeted citizens for mistreatment based on their political views," the court's opinion reads. "No citizen — Republican or Democrat, socialist or libertarian — should be targeted or even have to fear being targeted on those grounds."

"The allegations are substantial: most are drawn from findings made by the Treasury Department's own Inspector General for Tax Administration," the ruling continued. "Those findings include that the IRS used political criteria to round up applications for tax-exempt status filed by so called tea-party groups; that the IRS often took four times as long to process tea-party applications as other applications; and that the IRS served tea-party applicants with crushing demands for what the Inspector General called 'unnecessary information.'"

The ruling explained that the list of groups the IRS targeted is paramount to a future class-action case.

"At issue here are IRS 'Be On the Lookout' lists of organizations allegedly targeted for unfavorable treatment because of their political beliefs. Those organizations in turn make up the plaintiff class," the ruling said. "The district court ordered production of those lists, and did so again over an IRS motion to reconsider. Yet, almost a year later, the IRS still has not complied with the court's orders. Instead the IRS now seeks from this court a writ of mandamus, an extraordinary remedy reserved to correct only the clearest abuses of power by a district court. We deny the petition."

The court also contested that the information requested does not equate to the definition of "return information," like the IRS claims.

As lawyers from the Department of Justice have helped the IRS fight against the district court's order, the court's opinion also states that the Justice Department's lawyers acted against the department's tradition.

"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 opinion reads. "The conduct of the IRS's attorneys in the district court falls outside that tradition."

Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance which is funding the class-action lawsuit, told Fox News that the IRS was an "unredeemable organization."

"We are very pleased that the 6th Circuit had smacked down the IRS and its thuggish DOJ lawyers," Meckler said.

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