Lois Lerner, the former IRS manager who was at the center of the targeting scandal, will have her testimony in a class action lawsuit brought by conservative groups against the IRS remain secret.
Lerner and another IRS employee, Holly Paz, want their testimony to remain secret because they fear death threats if it becomes public.
U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett had originally ordered their depositions be sealed, but on Thursday he removed that prohibition and instead said the testimony should be deemed “confidential,” keeping it secret until he can see what the women had to say and what effect releasing it to the public would have.
“Good cause exists to maintain the confidentiality of the depositions during the discovery phase,” Judge Barrett ruled.
For now, only the lengthy list of lawyers involved in the case will be allowed to see the deposition testimony.
In a case already fraught with tension, the women’s request for secrecy added a new dimension.
“I’m outraged,” said Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.
Mr. Meckler’s group is funding a class action lawsuit against the IRS for its targeting, and hundreds of organizations snared in the targeting are part of the case. They want to talk to Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz as part of their effort to get to the bottom of what went on.
“What she’s claiming is the public should have no right to know, if they’re made at a public official, what that official says under oath,” Mr. Meckler said.
He also said Judge Barrett got Thursday’s ruling wrong. He said the judge should have said his plan is for transparency, leaving open the chance for limited parts to be kept secret if need be.
“I think he got it backwards,” Mr. Meckler said.
More than 400 groups were on the list of nonprofit organizations the IRS said it subjected to intrusive scrutiny up through 2013. It singled groups out because of worries about perceived political activities.
The public has no right to know the activities of a person while she was in government?
Lois Lerner is already hated. It’s hard to see how the level of anger against her can get any worse. The Obama Justice Department cleared her and Ms. Paz of criminal wrongdoing in the targeting scandal so the release of her deposition carries no legal consequences with it — as far as we know.
So why the secrecy? Lerner doesn’t want to live with the social consequences of her actions while she was an important manager at the IRS. It was her policies that interfered with the right of Tea Party groups to exercise their constitutional rights of free speech and free association. Most of her targets were ordinary Americans who had never become politically involved in their lives. They didn’t have the money to fight the IRS. Lerner and the rest of IRS management knew this full well which is why they went after them so viciously.
I can’t believe she will be in additional danger if her deposition is made public. I think the judge will agree.