A U.S. District Court Judge has granted a request by plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for a hearing to determine the merits of allowing independent computer experts to get to the bottom of the agency’s contention that missing emails from Lois Lerner and several other IRS employees are truly irretrievable.
On Tuesday, U.S District Court Judge Reggie Walton ordered a July 11 hearing to weigh whether the case would benefit from the contribution of an outside expert. If the court sides with the plaintiffs, an independent expert could be brought in to attempt to locate the emails, which the IRS claims were forever lost following a rash of hard drive crashes on employees’ personal computers.
According to the Washington Examiner — itself a plaintiff in a separate Federal lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over allegations that agency is withholding documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request — the hearing comes following pressure from attorneys for True the Vote, a Texas-based conservative nonprofit that suffered alleged political discrimination at the hands of the IRS during the runup to President Barack Obama’s November 2012 re-election:
True the Vote wants a digital forensics expert from outside the IRS to assess the evidence.
“Even if the ill-timed hard drive ‘crash’ was truly an accident, and even if the IRS genuinely believes that the emails are ‘unrecoverable,’ the circumstances of the spoliation at issue cry out for a second opinion,” True the Vote’s attorneys told Walton in the motion filed late Monday.
“It may well prove to be the case that a computer forensics expert could recover evidence that the IRS has been unable to retrieve.
“At the very least, such an expert could preserve whatever evidence has not already been wiped clean from the IRS’s computers along with whatever is stored on the Individual Defendants’ home computers, cell phones, and other PDAs.”
IRS attorneys will be in the federal District Court on July 10 to explain why the government failed to tell Judicial Watch about the lost emails for months despite their being evidence in the nonprofit’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Judicial Watch, a government watchdog nonprofit, filed its lawsuit last October after IRS officials failed to respond adequately to a May 2013 FOIA request for the Lerner emails.
True the Vote’s request for an independent look into the emails’ chain of digital custody met with resistance from its IRS adversaries in the case. IRS attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the request for outside expertise, but Walton instead set next week’s hearing in order to hear at length from both sides before making an informed decision.
“True the Vote argued that merely asking for the dismissal ‘does not give them carte blanche to destroy or permit the destruction of documents and discoverable information that are relevant to the IRS Targeting Scheme in general and the application of True the Vote for exempt status,’” the Examiner reported Tuesday.
Stay tuned for the court’s decision following the July 11 hearing.