Ban on anti-tax book renewed by federal judge
- The court said it wants more information before deciding whether to make the book ban permanent.
April 16, 2003 — A U.S. District Court Judge in Las Vegas April 11 extended a temporary ban on a book that criticizes the federal income tax and encourages readers to evade payment of taxes.
U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George asked attorneys on both sides of the case to submit more information by May 1 so that he can determine whether to permanently ban Irwin Schiff’s book, “The Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes.”
The ban also enjoined Schiff and two associates, Cynthia Neun and Lawrence Cohen from promoting their alleged “tax scams.”
The temporary restraining order outlines 13 activities in which Schiff, Neun, Cohen and their associates may not engage. Those activities include distribution of Schiff’s book; “making any false commercial speech about federal income taxes, in person or through any media”; and holding seminars in which they advocate Schiff’s “zero income” tax plan. The court also ordered Schiff, Neun and Cohen to place a copy of the order, “in its entirety” on their two Web sites: www.paynoincometax.com and www.ishiff.com.
“Government is effectively shutting up all income tax dissent through sanctions and, now, injunction,” the defendants argued in their response to the court. “Government is in a far better position to suffer some economic loss than to restrain the free speech of its citizens in a slow but steady loss of all liberty.”
The Justice Department alleges that the three and their customers attempted to evade a estimated total of $56 million in incomes taxes from 1999 to 2001.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a friend-of-the court brief in the case arguing that the ban and the requirement to post the court’s order are unconstitutional.
“To extend the reach of the tax code to enable the government to censor such a volume is unjustified base[d] on both the record and the content of the book,” the ACLUN wrote in a brief filed April 4.
The government justified the proposed based ban on Schiff’s book by calling it commercial speech, which enjoys fewer protections than noncommercial speech.
“The government merely notes that the last two pages of the book” contain advertising, the ACLUN wrote in a second brief filed April 11. “As noted in the ACLUN’s initial brief, commercial speech is speech which does no more than propose a commercial transaction.”
(United States v. Irwin Schiff; Media counsel: Noel W. Spaid, Del Mar, Calif.) — JL
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press