Federal Judge Threatens IRS Commissioner, DOJ Lawyers with Contempt of Court Over Lois Lerner Emails

By Michael Morris | July 30, 2015 | 12:31pm EDT
Koskinen says the IRS has spent 100,000 hours and millions sending documents. (AP Photo)

United States District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan threatened to hold IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and newly recovered emails of former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS Lois Lerner, as was ordered on July 1, 2015.

At the status hearing yesterday, Judge Sullivan warned that the failure to comply with the order was “a serious matter” and that the IRS and Justice Department’s excuses for not following the July 1 order were “clearly indefensible,” “ridiculous” and “absurd.”

As reported by Judicial Watch, “He asked the IRS’ Justice Department lawyer Geoffrey Klimas, ‘Why didn’t the IRS comply’ with his court order and ‘why shouldn’t the Court hold the Commissioner of the IRS in contempt.’” Klimas answered that producing the requested reports and newly recovered information would be “burdensome” to the IRS in that it would take, in his words, “roughly four to five hours to complete [a week], and that’s the same whether we’re dealing with a hundred documents or whether we’re dealing with a thousand documents … ,” and furthermore, that “[t]he Internal Revenue Service was trying to comply with the directive from the Court,” that “we had not done so, but that was not intentional.”

Referencing his contempt filings against Justice Department prosecutors in the prosecution of now deceased Senator Stevens (R-AK), Judge Sullivan then chastised the IRS and Justice Department for knowing that the “order was clear” and still not complying with it. “Think about the public listening to this,” said Judge Sullivan. Warning the IRS and Justice Department that he would not tolerate any further disregard of his July 1, 2015 order, Judge Sullivan further stated, “If there is further noncompliance, I will haul into court the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to show cause why that person should not be personally held in contempt of court. I can’t make that any clearer.”

Judge Sullivan issued the following “minute order” after the hearing:

“At the July 29, 2015 status hearing, the Government agreed that the Court’s July 1, 2015 oral order from the bench was clear and enforceable.  Nonetheless, the Government reasoned it inappropriate to file a motion for reconsideration until a written order was issued.  As expressed at the hearing, the Government’s reasoning is nonsensical.  Officers of the Court who fail to comply with Court orders will be held in contempt.  Also, in the event of non-compliance with future Court orders, the Commissioner of the IRS and others shall be directed to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt of Court.  The Court’s July 1, 2015 ruling from the bench stands: (1) the Government shall produce relevant documents every Monday; (2) the Government’s document production shall be accompanied by a status report that indicates (a) whether TIGTA has turned over any new documents to the IRS, (b) if so, the number of documents, and (c) a timeframe for the IRSs production of those documents. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on July 29, 2015.”

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