One often hears lawyers, especially at large firms, say something like “if I were a client, I couldn’t afford to hire me.”
The reason is obvious; billable hour rates are high and quality legal work, especially in a tricky area, takes time. Legal fees for middle-class or even upper-middle-class people can easily outpace a client’s ability to pay.
This is a problem in a lot of areas of law, from divorce to employment to routine consumer litigation. In some cases, fee shifting or contingency fees can help make hiring a lawyer more affordable. Still, even for lawyers who aren’t in big firms, clients are often unable to afford the lawyer they need.
Federal employees caught up in Congressional or inspector general investigations are another sad example; they can be hit with massive fees for something they have no control over.
With the Supreme Court’s 2013 term concluding on Monday, many Americans are assessing how they feel about the judicial branch of their government. Even if you are still reeling about some of the decisions made recently by the least dangerous branch, don’t forget the executive. The president and his agencies can also make you wonder how the American experiment is panning out.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an order to hear oral arguments from lawyers representing the Internal Revenue Service and the conservative nonprofit True the Vote. True the Vote is one of the conservative groups claiming IRS improperly targeted its application for nonprofit status based on the group’s political and philosophical affiliation. True the Vote filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and expedited discovery on Monday, calling for an independent forensics examination of any IRS hard drives, servers, or other computer hardware involved in the government agency’s possible targeting of conservative nonprofits’ applications for tax-exempt status. It wants an outside computer expert to try to ascertain how and when any electronic evidence, such as former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner’s emails, may have been lost. Also, it would be great if the government didn’t spoliate — I mean “recycle” — any more evidence….
Tax Day was earlier this week. Like many Americans, I said some prayers — and a few curses — and hoped that Turbo Tax made sense of my mid-year move from D.C. to Texas, my investment roll-overs, my handful of I-9s and W-2s. I did my damnedest to be “true, correct, and complete,” as the IRS insisted. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted via Twitter that he has “absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate,” though, of course, he didn’t say that he knew that they weren’t accurate.
Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul’s 501(c)(4) organization, announced this week that it’s actually pretty sure that its tax recent filings are incomplete, even if true and correct. (Two out of three ain’t bad?) According to C4L, the organization refused to divulge the names of its donors when it filed its IRS 990 forms. The IRS fined Campaign for Liberty just shy of $13,000, plus growing interest for each day the fine goes unpaid.
How did Campaign for Liberty respond? Not as you might expect….
* “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.” Thanks Obama, but AG Eric Holder was the one who kind of signed off on the James Rosen search warrant. [Open Channel / NBC News]
* The chief judge of the D.C. Circuit apologized for a lack of transparency in the James Rosen probe, and this is one of the least embarrassing things that happened this week. [Washington Post]
* Despite having “done nothing wrong,” embattled tax official Lois Lerner announced she’s been placed on administrative leave in light of recent events. I salute you, fellow WNE grad. [National Review]
* Watch out, patent trolls, because this proposed bill might actually be — gasp! — helpful. If enacted, the Patent Abuse Reduction Act’s goal is to help keep discovery costs down. [Hillicon Valley / The Hill]
* It’s a hell of a drug: for some lawyers, the sequester won’t be such a bad thing after all, because Coast Guard and Navy forces won’t be available to intercept 38 tons of cocaine. [Breaking Defense]
* Proskauer Rose’s ex-CFO, Elly Rosenthal, has cut down her $10 million suit against the firm to just one allegation. She claims the firm fired her solely for her diagnosis of breast cancer. [Am Law Daily]
* The Boy Scouts of America will now admit openly gay youths into their ranks for the first time in the history of ever. You should probably “be prepared” for a flurry of litigation over this. [New York Times]
* A mistrial was declared in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial. Ugh, come on with this, the Lifetime movie is already in post-production! How on earth are they going to work this in? [CNN]
* A bipartisan immigration reform bill made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee and will head to the Senate floor. Of course, the amendments in support of gay marriage didn’t make it in, but that may be moot soon anyway. [CNN]
* IRS official Lois Lerner may not be very “good at math,” but at least she seems to know the basic principles of constitutional law. She’ll invoke her Fifth Amendment rights before the House Oversight Committee today. [Politico]
* The D.C. Circuit ruled that the top secret Osama bin Laden death photos will remain top secret, but the internet’s desperate cries of “pics or it didn’t happen” will live on in our hearts. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Attention naysayers: it may be time to face the music. According to the latest Altman Weil survey, most law firm leaders think all of these fun recession-driven changes are here to stay. [Am Law Daily]
* Twenty-two law firms are banding together to fight against fraudulent financial products on a worldwide scale. It’s too bad this legal alliance didn’t exist before the Bernie Madoff scandal. [New York Times]
* It looks like New Jersey may soon be hopping aboard the “pro bono work before bar admission” train. You better hope you get your clinic placements in order, people. [New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.)]
* The results for the February 2013 bar exam in California are out, and they’re frightening. It’s time to try that acting thing again, because only 41 percent of all test takers passed the exam. [The Recorder]
* Jodi Arias is now begging jurors to allow her to live out the rest of her days in prison. She wants to contribute to society by painting, recycling, and… not slashing additional throats. Lovely. [Fox News]
* A White House petition started by a young lawyer asking that at least student loan interest be tax deductible like interest on a mortgage to help out those folks like, frankly, most lawyers, who make too much money to deduct their student loans. [WhiteHouse.gov]
* Antoinette “Toni” Bush, partner-in-charge of Skadden’s communications group, is leaving the firm to become global head of government affairs for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Free tip: brush up on your hacking law. [Am Law Daily]
* The Department of Energy may adopt a new “commercial maturity test” to get rolling on the backlog of liquid natural gas export license requests. And that, of course, will spur the inevitable lawsuits. [Breaking Energy]
* Apparently, President Obama dreams of “going Bulworth and resents the “Harry Potter theory of the presidency,” that the President can wave a wand and make things happen. So he’s pro Pras, Maya, and ODB, and anti-Hagrid. Who’s anti-Hagrid??? [New York Times]
* Lois Lerner, the manager at the center of the IRS “scandal,” has backed out of delivering the keynote at the WNEU Law commencement. I’m pretty sure Staci would do a better job… of running the IRS. [Boston Herald]
* Overlawyered blasts the Daily Caller for trying to tie Lerner to Obama via her husband, Michael Miles of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan because the large firm had some ties to Obama. Blerg. Meanwhile, this “partisan scandal” is turning out to be bipartisan entirely based on which IRS office the groups dealt with. [Overlawyered]
* Congratulations to this guy. Must have been a hell of a feast. [WDRB]
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.
You probably saw this week’s topic coming. Until the folks at One First Street start tossing Elie and me some fresh meat to tussle over, my indignation — righteous as it is — must be directed elsewhere. Unless EM wants to argue that, when SCOTUS decided that Pelkey’s claim was not preempted by federal law in Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey, the Nine were, like, racist or something. (Query: what race is Dan? Where was the supplemental briefing?!)
So. The IRS’s targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status. I couldn’t not talk about this scandal, right?
Truly, I kept avoiding devoting this week’s column to the IRS abuses. Seriously.
For one thing, I was not initially so scandalized by this supposed scandal, though I was appropriately dismayed. Second, this story is still developing. So, I hereby reserve my right to be feverishly pissed off later….
Dear Republicans who are multi-orgasmic over this IRS scandal, just skip this article. Skip the comments. We get it: “OBAMA… had the GOVERNMENT… like, DO STUFF… which PROVES that taxes are bad!!!” Click over to Red State and bathe in the echo chamber. Here, the adults need to have a talk.
My question for the lawyers is this: how are we supposed to check the validity of groups asking for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status? I mean, let’s look at this “scandal” in the way the justice system will look at it, without all the partisan accusations:
Group asks for 501(c)(4) status.
Group has anti-government message in its very name.
Group doesn’t apply for 527 status as a political organization because???
IRS asks questions to figure out if these groups are really “social welfare” organizations.
I’m open to the possibility that the IRS did something wrong. I’d just like somebody to tell me what the hell they were supposed to do? Just rubber stamp it? Because if that’s true, I certainly think this website is concerned about the “social welfare” and would like to be tax-exempt.
Maybe we should ask the woman in charge of the IRS Exempt Organization Division if we can get tax-exempt status? She’s actually getting an honorary tribute at a law school this weekend…
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