- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2017

The threats that former IRS senior executive Lois G. Lerner says are serious enough to keep her court depositions forever secret date back to 2014, and she hasn’t shown any new threats, according to new court documents filed late Thursday.

Ms. Lerner and her key deputy, Holly Paz, have demanded a judge forever seal their depositions and parts of any documents that mention those depositions, saying they fear for their safety.

But the harassment they point to as evidence is more than three years old and dates back to the most heated days of the debate over the IRS’s illegal targeting of tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny, according to new documents opposing the secrecy request.

Tea party groups say that three years, reams of legal arguments and plenty of attention to the case have occurred since 2014, yet the two women haven’t cited any new threats, undercutting their claims of fear.

“The instances of harassment they allege last occurred in early 2014, despite more than three years of litigation since then,” Edward D. Greim, a lawyer for the tea party groups, said in the latest filings. “The court should deny the request by Lerner and Paz to seal court records and open the docket for public inspection.”

The secrecy battle is one of the remaining issues in a class action lawsuit covering hundreds of tea party groups that faced illegal scrutiny in their nonprofit status applications.

The Trump administration reached settlements earlier this year admitting the behavior — which occurred in the Obama administration — was wrong, and putting particular blame on Ms. Lerner, saying she not only didn’t stop the targeting but hid the behavior from her superiors.

Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz gave two separate depositions in the class action case, but neither has been made public.

In filings, the women said they feared for their safety should their descriptions of their behavior get out. Indeed, even the information backing up the women’s requests for secrecy, such as the nature of the threats they claim to have faced, is not public.

Even part of Thursday’s filing about secrecy was redacted, presumably because it recounted some of those details.

Mr. Greim, though, said other information about the women, including their own emails sent during their time at the IRS, has been released yet there has been no new harassment.

He said the information has to be made public so the tea party groups that are part of the class action can evaluate the settlement agreement he has forged with the Trump administration.

“Lerner and Paz might not have been the puppet masters, but they were the puppeteers: exercising direct control over the strings of government used to target plaintiffs and the class,” he said in the new filing. “Class members must know the contents of their testimony to consider the fairness of the settlement, and the public must have access to help ensure that similar conduct never occurs again.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer has also filed a motion to unseal the women’s testimony, and the Trump administration reportedly supports the move as well.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide