Lois Lerner’s Secrets

The former IRS official wants a court to seal her testimony.

 
 

Lois Lerner in Washington, 2013.
Lois Lerner in Washington, 2013. PHOTO: CAROLYN KASTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
 

If only the National Security Agency were as good at keeping secrets as Lois Lerner. When news that the IRS had targeted conservative groups led to congressional hearings, the former director of the Exempt Organizations division declared her innocence and then clammed up. Now she and her former IRS associate, Holly Paz, are asking a federal judge to seal forever their depositions in a lawsuit that the IRS settled last month for $3.5 million.

Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz say they or their families have endured harassment or death threats. But Edward Greim, the attorney for the roughly 400 tea-party clients who sued, notes in reply that the last threat Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz cited was from early 2014.

Leave aside that the usual way of dealing with threats or harassment is to notify police or the FBI—not to keep information about an abuse of power by public officials from the public. Every other party is united for disclosure: the defense (i.e., the government, which has admitted wrongdoing and apologized); the plaintiffs; and the Cincinnati Enquirer, which has filed a motion to lift the seal. 

In his initial decision in May, federal Judge Michael Barrett said he could see the wisdom of confining access to the testimony to the lawyers during discovery. But he added that others could ask to lift the order later, and Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz would then “bear the burden of overcoming the presumption of access to court documents.”

That moment is here. American taxpayers who will fork out $3.5 million for Ms. Lerner’s actions have a right to hear how she justified what she did at the IRS.

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