Voter advocacy organization True the Vote hit a roadblock Thursday when a federal judge denied its request to have an independent forensic expert search for Lois Lerner’s “missing” e-mails.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that True the Vote’s attorneys failed to provide evidence showing that the IRS had either already intentionally destroyed e-mails, or would do so in the future. Judge Walton also cited privacy concerns, saying that taxpayer data, as well as the ongoing investigation by an inspector general, could be compromised.

Judge Walton also denied True the Vote’s request for an injunction forcing the IRS to preserve all documents related to the lawsuit. He said that True the Vote failed to show “irreparable harm” in its request, and that “the public interest weighs strongly against the type of injunctive relief the plaintiff seeks.”

From the court memorandum:

Accordingly, despite the general distrust of the defendants expressed by the plaintiff, the Court has no factual basis to concur with that distrust, not only as to the defendants but seemingly every component of the Department of the Treasury (and presumably of every component of the Executive Branch of the federal government), and therefore concludes that the issuance of an injunction will not further aid in the recovery of the emails, if such recovery is possible, but will rather only duplicate and potentially interfere with ongoing investigative activities.

True the Vote attorney Cleta Mitchell has downplayed the ruling, saying that the judge merely denied their request for expedited assistance.

True the Vote filed suit against the IRS last year after the agency denied True the Vote’s application for tax-exempt status. True the Vote is seeking immediate recognition as a 501(c)(3), and more than $85,000 in damages; they claim that they IRS targeted their organization because of their openly conservative agenda:

“Due to True the Vote’s perceived conservative policy positions and affiliation with Tea Party organizations, the IRS and IRS Employees systematically targeted True the Vote’s application for additional review and scrutiny, whereby True the Vote was deliberately subjected to numerous unnecessary and burdensome requests for information about its operations and affiliations,” the lawsuit reads. “Consequently, True the Vote was forced to furnish to the IRS information and documents wholly unnecessary to the determination of True the Vote’s tax-exempt status, which were repeatedly accessed and inspected by IRS agents.”

Since then, other conservative organizations have also come forward with allegations of abuse by the IRS. A May 2014 document dump by watchdog organization Judicial Watch revealed that officials at IRS headquarters handled the processing of applications filed by Tea Party organizations and affiliates. Then, in June, IRS officials told Congress that two years’ worth of then-IRS official Lois Lerner’s e-mails on the subject had been lost in a computer crash.

While it remains unclear as to whether or not the judge will give precedence to the inspector general’s investigation of IRS conduct—thus complicating evidentiary matters for private parties like True the Vote—there’s still hope for activist groups who were targeted by the IRS. The government has filed a petition asking the court to dismiss True the Vote’s lawsuit, and attorneys expect a ruling shortly. Fortunately, if the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, True the Vote’s attorneys will have more opportunities to ask for independent examination of the evidence–and take to task IRS attorneys if they failed to preserve documents in anticipation of lawsuits.

You can read the full court memorandum here:

True the Vote v IRS Discovery Ruling August 7 2014


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