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The United States Reaches Agreement with a Nationwide Class of Over 400 Targeted Groups in NorCal v United States, Vindicating Plaintiffs’ Claims in a Generous Financial Settlement

The Plaintiffs in NorCal v. United States are pleased to announce that the United States entered into a generous financial settlement to pay the claims of each of over 400 groups in the Plaintiff Class who were targeted by the IRS for their political beliefs. It is a great day for the First Amendment and the promise of fair and impartial government.

Five groups filed this case, the first claim against the IRS for its targeting of conservative groups, and the only nationwide class action, in May 2013. These five, NorCal Tea Party Patriots, South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, Americans Against Oppressive Laws, San Angelo Tea Party, and the Texas Patriots Tea Party, sacrificed hundreds of hours of time. The lawsuit stretched over four years and was sustained by funding from Citizens for Self-Governance, a non-profit that aids citizen groups.  Randles & Splittgerber served as co-counsel for Plaintiffs.

In 2015, Judge Susan Dlott of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified what may be the only nationwide class ever formed for a claim of this type. In 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals soundly rejected the IRS’s attempt to use taxpayer protection laws to withhold evidence of its own wrongdoing in the case. In 2016, District Judge Michael Barrett entered a preliminary injunction against the IRS, finding a strong showing of a likelihood of success on Texas Patriots Tea Party’s First Amendment claim. In 2017, Texas Patriots became one of the last groups to have its exempt status recognized. Also in 2017, the Plaintiffs took the first and only deposition of Lois Lerner, which remains under seal in a manner still being litigated by Plaintiffs notwithstanding the proposed settlement. Under federal court rules, District Judge Barrett must still approve the class settlement on the motion of the parties.

By the fall of 2017, dozens of IRS officials had testified under oath, and the case was being prepared for trial. As part of this process, Attorney General Sessions’ Department of Justice carefully reviewed the facts. Plaintiffs developed evidence showing that IRS managers knew that groups’ views, not their activities, were being used to target them for heightened scrutiny. Even after they gained this knowledge, officials like Lois Lerner failed to release the targeted groups, ordering up more scrutiny and delay even while betraying worry that the “Tea Party matter” was “very dangerous.” This was far more than the “lack of adequate management” the IRS or TIGTA is publicly willing to acknowledge.

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