U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge today dismissed one of tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart's key defenses in the federal lawsuit seeking to foreclose on his Athol home: That he's protected by legislative immunity. “Defendant Hart can only raise a legislative immunity defense if it is available under federal law,” the judge wrote. “He has not done so here.” Hart was citing a provision from the Idaho Constitution.
Plus, Lodge wrote that legislative immunity under federal law covers only “legitimate legislative activity.” He wrote, “The claims raised in this case are in regard to Defendant Hart's private actions in allegedly failing to pay his federal income taxes.”
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss Hart's immunity defense; Lodge granted it. “Granting the motion in this case will avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues,” the judge wrote, adding that Hart's immunity claim “clearly lacks merit under any set of facts that he might allege.” You can read the judge's decision here, and our full story here at spokesman.com, from reporter Tom Clouse.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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