April 3, 2012 in Idaho

Federal judge rules Hart has no legislative shield from tax actions

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Phil Hart
(Full-size photo)

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Read the federal judge’s order here

Legal options are running out for anti-tax Idaho lawmaker Phil Hart in his effort to keep the government from seizing his log home in Athol.

A federal judge on Tuesday gutted one of the Idaho state representative’s main defenses by dismissing Hart’s effort to use legislative immunity as a shield. Hart and his attorneys have argued that a provision of the Idaho constitution that protects state representatives and senators from civil proceedings during the legislative session should both provide him more time to appeal a companion action in state court and should disqualify any notices sent by federal authorities.

The federal government is attempting to force Hart to pay more than $550,000 in unpaid federal taxes and penalties.

The federal ruling comes one day after every single Idaho Supreme Court justice peppered Hart’s attorney, Starr Kelso, with questions in the state court action, where Idaho tax officials are fighting to make Hart pay about $53,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge said in his ruling Tuesday that Hart is not entitled to legislative immunity under federal law.

“The claims raised in this case are in regard to Defendant Hart’s private actions in allegedly failing to pay his federal income taxes,” Lodge wrote. The immunity defense “lacks merit under any set of facts that he might allege.”

In other rulings, Lodge denied Hart’s request for more time to produce discovery and Lodge also denied Hart’s motion to dismiss the federal claim under the argument that it came after Idaho’s statute of limitations.

While the Idaho Supreme Court did not say when the justices would rule in the state case, Hart’s federal trial remains scheduled for April 2013.

Efforts to reach Hart were not immediately successful.


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