Saturday, May 20, 2017

Article on Justice Gorsuch's Approach to Criminal Tax Cases (5/20/2017)

I think readers will be interested in this excellent article by Jeremy Temkin:  Reading Tea Leaves: Justice Gorsuch and Criminal Tax Cases, 257 NYLJ (5/18/17), here.  The data set for the article is slim -- principally  United States v. Farr, 536 F.3d 1174 (10th Cir. 2008), here (note that the link is to the case on the UVA Law School website titled the Neil Gorsuch Project).  I have written before on the subsequent trajectory in Farr and provide the principal blog links at the end of this blog. Basically, in the 2008 case decided by then Judge Gorsuch, Farr argued successfully on the appeal that the charging document incorrectly charged her for evading "her" employment taxes (which were not her liability) rather than the trust fund penalty for which she was liable.

Here is an excerpt from Temkin's Lessons Learned:
It is, of course, necessary to exercise caution in reading tea leaves, and a narrow  sampling of cases is insufficient to conclude with confidence that Justice Gorsuch will show the same willingness as Justice Scalia to defend (certain) criminal rights. After all, Farr was a fairly unusually (sic) case, and Judge Gorsuch left open the possibility that the government could have avoided the constructive amendment problem that it had created by drafting a bare-bones indictment. That solution, of course, will not help criminal defendants who will be forced to rely on rarely granted bills of particulars to draw out the government’s case. 
In that way, Farr presents an interesting tension with Justice Scalia’s dissent in United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 549 U.S. 102, 111 (2007). Resendiz-Ponce was convicted of illegally attempting to reenter the country based on an indictment that failed to allege that he had committed any overt act in connection with his reentry. An eight-justice majority concluded that the indictment was sufficient, reasoning that “attempt” necessarily connotes both intent and some overt act. Justice Scalia refused to give the government the benefit of that doubt. Instead he found the indictment faulty on the straightforward view that it failed to satisfy the requirement that it allege the two elements of  attempted reentry: both intent to commit the underlying crime and some act toward its commission. Thus, while both Judge Gorsuch in Farr and Justice Scalia in Resendiz-Ponce showed themselves  committed to construe indictments strictly, the former did so by encouraging the government to allege fewer particulars, while the latter concluded that more details were necessary.
JAT Note:  Of course, Farr could have been convicted of evading the employer's employment taxes (including even the employer's portion), but the charging document should not have said she evaded "her" taxes.

Prior blogs on Farr:

  • Charging Decisions for Trust Fund Tax Violations (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 11/17/16), here.
  • Charging Decisions for Trust Fund Tax Crimes - 7202 or 7201 (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 12/22/12), here.
  • Evasion of Trust Fund Taxes and Charging Decisions (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 1/23/2012), here.
  • Tenth Circuit Summarizes Double Jeopardy in Rejecting the Argument (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 1/16/10), here.

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