A federal judge has dismissed a pair of lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service by over 40 conservative groups over the IRS’s handling of their applications for tax-exempt status.
Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court in Washington pointed out in his ruling Thursday that the IRS had changed the way it reviewed the tax-exempt applications and had approved most of the groups, and that federal courts do not allow financial claims against individual defendants in the IRS for constitutional violations.
“The allegedly unconstitutional governmental conduct, which had delayed the processing of the plaintiffs’ tax-exempt applications and spawned this litigation, is no longer impacting the plaintiffs,” Walton wrote.
“Unless an actual, ongoing controversy exists in this case, this Court is without power to decide it,” he noted.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of conservative groups such as True the Vote and Linchpins of Liberty by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The IRS has come under fire from conservative groups since last year for using terms such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot” to review applications for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code. The controversy led to the ouster of the former director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, Lois Lerner, along with other IRS officials.
The head of at least one conservative organization was dismayed by the dismissal of the lawsuits. “This ruling is offensive to every citizen who believes in equal treatment under the law,” said FreedomWorks executive vice president Adam Brandon in a statement. “It doesn't matter when the IRS bullied conservative groups or if they stopped, the point is that it was done, and the IRS has to be held accountable. Today's decision was the legalization of federal bullying and unchecked discretionary authority, so long as agencies can play the waiting game long enough to correct their misdeeds. The fact that it occurred in the first place was appalling, but the fact that it was excused by the courts was disgraceful."
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