ACLJ’s Appeal in IRS Targeting Case Scheduled to Be Heard On Eve of Tax Day


Abigail A. Southerland

March 16, 2016

3 min read

Free Speech



The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments in our IRS targeting scandal case for April 14, 2016 – just one day before what is traditionally known as Tax Day.

As millions of Americans prepare to file their individual income tax returns with the IRS, the ACLJ will present oral arguments on behalf of 38 conservative and pro-life, non-profit organizations in its largest lawsuit against the IRS challenging the agency’s unconstitutional discrimination and widespread targeting of conservative groups.

Last week, and in preparation for oral argument, we filed our reply brief. On appeal, we argue that the district court’s dismissal of the targeted organizations’ claims is clearly erroneous. In reaching its determination, the district court adopted the flawed argument presented by the IRS that the court could provide no effective remedy for the injuries suffered by the targeted organizations because the IRS had ceased all components of the targeting scheme.  This simply isn’t true.

Notably, two of the non-profit organizations we represent on appeal are still awaiting a determination on their applications for tax exemption after many years.   That’s right.  One group has been waiting for more than six years, another for nearly six years – in limbo – still no decision from the IRS..

In addition, 36 of our non-profit clients were only granted tax exemption following significant delay or withdrew their applications for exemption after the IRS pummeled their First Amendment rights to free speech and free association through unconstitutional delay and intrusive and unnecessary requests for information.  These unconstitutional information demands required the disclosure of donor lists, internet passwords and usernames, and the political and charitable activities of family members.

As we highlight in our brief, the factual and legal arguments presented by the IRS in support of the district court’s dismissal are unfounded and demonstrate the longstanding mentality held by the IRS of “a world in which no challenge to its actions is ever outside the closed loop of its taxing authority.” 

As the facts alleged in our Complaint (as well as the findings and determinations issued by federal investigative bodies including Congress and TIGTA) make clear, the IRS simply cannot demonstrate at this point with absolute clarity that the unconstitutional violations it committed have fully ceased and will not occur again. Crucially, the fact that the IRS has such wide-ranging authority “only serves to heighten a reasonable expectation of a repeat violation.”

Most importantly, however, and directly contrary to the district court’s opinion dismissing the case, is the fact that the targeted organizations continue to suffer the chilling effects of the Targeting Scheme on their First Amendment rights to the freedoms of speech and association.

We will continue fighting in court to ensure that the First Amendment rights of all Americans are upheld and that those who are responsible for this grievous violation of the Constitutional are held responsible.  This travesty must never happen again.

We will continue to keep you updated as our major oral argument in federal appeals court approaches next month.