Lois Lerner: Save me from those crazed taxpayers!

I bet you thought the bad old days of the IRS scandal were over, huh? Well… not quite.

Two of the “stars” of the IRS debacle where they targeted conservative groups for special attention, Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, were back in federal court last week, but not for additional charges against them. This time they’re working on fighting a request to have the records from their trial and the statements they gave sealed in perpetuity. The reason? If the rest of us heard what they said about the Tea Party, angry mobs with pitchforks and torches would probably march on their homes. (Washington Times)

Former IRS executive Lois G. Lerner told a federal court last week that members of her family, including “young children,” face death threats and a real risk of physical harm if her explanation of the tea party targeting scandal becomes public.

Ms. Lerner and Holly Paz, her deputy at the IRS, filed documents in court Thursday saying tapes and transcripts of depositions they gave in a court case this year must remain sealed in perpetuity, or else they could spur an enraged public to retaliate.

“Whenever Mss. Lerner and Paz have been in the media spotlight, they have faced death threats and harassment,” attorneys for the two women argued.

At issue are tapes of the two women’s testimony and transcripts of depositions in the class action lawsuits brought against the agency on behalf of Tea Party groups targeted by Lerner and others. Those suits were settled earlier this year with the IRS not only admitting wrongdoing but offering further proof that Lerner continued the practice even after being discovered. And now journalists would like to get hold of the records and make them public.

This is an interesting defense strategy to be sure. We’ve seen countless cases where court records have been sealed, at least for a time, if the contents could damage ongoing criminal investigations or create a national security risk. What the attorneys for Lerner and Paz are saying is something else entirely. It’s basically an admission that what they said in court was so damning that people might wish to do them harm.

This isn’t some sort of whistleblower protection situation or a case where the government wants to ensure the safety of a state’s witness. It’s also not a question of privacy since these are court records relating to work that the defendants performed while employed by the taxpayers. This sounds like a case where two people admitted to something really horrible and now they want the courts to ensure that nobody finds out about it. Is that something we do in a court of law?

Lerner and Paz are blaming Tea Party leader Mark Meckler in particular, suggesting that he ginned up the anger among his followers which might now place the women’s lives in danger. Meckler found the suggestion rather amusing.

Mr. Meckler laughed when he learned about the filing.

“Four years of harassing innocent American citizens for their political beliefs, and she’s scared of a guy in a cowboy hat talking to a bunch of little old ladies at a tea party event?” he said, recounting the speech where he called IRS agents “thugs.”

He said if the depositions didn’t show any bad action on her part, then Ms. Lerner should have nothing to fear from their release to the public.

I don’t know how the courts will rule on this but there’s one possible scenario we could consider. If you get caught robbing a bank and are taken to court and sentenced, can you seal those records away from the prying eyes of the public? After all, it would be rather unfair for everyone to start thinking of you as a bank robber, right?

Or at least that’s the apparent logic of Lois Lerner.