CINCINNATI: The federal government has hired two major Cincinnati law firms to defend Internal Revenue Service employees in one of the lawsuits arising from targeting of conservative groups.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in Tuesday’s editions that the firms of Taft Stettinius & Hollister and Squire Sanders have been retained at taxpayer expense for up to $200 an hour plus costs to represent 19 employees being sued in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
The Justice Department says it is a longstanding policy to provide representation for federal employees being sued for conduct performed as part of their jobs.
“No one would be willing to take these jobs at places like the IRS if the government wasn’t willing to help protect them from legal suits like this,” said Donald Tobin, a law professor at Ohio State University and a former Justice Department attorney.
Legal experts said the outside counsel is needed to help represent IRS individuals to avoid any conflict of interest.
“In a situation like this, there can be a lot of finger-pointing going on ... especially if someone accuses another person of acting outside their official capacity and in a personal capacity,” said Phillip Sparkes, at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase School of Law.
The suit initiated in May by NorCal Tea Party Patriots has been joined by other conservative groups, saying they were subjected to intrusive scrutiny when seeking tax-exempt status. They said that cost them valuable time and expenses. There are other federal lawsuits pending in other courts filed by other groups since the IRS acknowledged tea party groups had gotten extra attention.
The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit in Cincinnati.