The judge banned a book he never read
Tax author, radio host and IRS gadfly Irwin Schiff argues his reading of statutes and Supreme Court decisions such as Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R. Co. (240 US 1, 1916) have convinced him that paying income taxes on domestic wages is voluntary for most Americans.
Why? Because if such a tax were made mandatory it would be an unconstitutional direct tax as currently enforced, under Article I of the Constitution, Sections 2 and 9, which still stipulate that direct taxes must be apportioned among the states by population. (Those sections were unaffected by the 16th Amendment, as the high court found in the aforementioned Brushaber case, as well as in Stanton v. Baltic Mining, , and Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47 .)
Whether you agree with him or not, in a free country like ours, surely Schiff is free to shout what he believes from the rooftops ... right?
In federal court in Las Vegas on March 19, U.S. District Senior Judge Lloyd George ordered Schiff to stop giving lectures, and to stop selling his latest book: "The Federal Mafia: How the Government Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes."
"If they can ban me from speaking ... what good is freedom of speech?" Schiff asks. "I've never feared criminal prosecution, because I'd get to cross-examine their claims while they were under oath. It never dawned on me that they could ever ban a book ... especially when they can't present, subject to cross-examination, what in my book is wrong."
Department of Justice trial attorney Evan Davis told the court Schiff has been "running one of the largest tax scams in U.S. history," encouraging people to file tax returns on which they assert they have no income subject to the tax. Davis asserted this "is designed to clog the federal court system and inundate the Internal Revenue Service."
"Lloyd George banned a book he never read," Schiff argues. "The government was claiming this stuff I say is frivolous, that `He tells people to break the law.' The judge asked `What book does that?' They said, 'The Federal Mafia.' He said he'd like to see the book. On the counsel table I had all the books I sell, plus five huge volumes of the regulations that execute the Internal Revenue Code, so I gave him the book, which to my knowledge is the first time he ever saw the book.
"There's a recess, he goes into chambers, he comes back within 10 minutes and basically bans the book. All he did was take the government's representations at face value. ... How can they ban a book without allowing me to cross-examine anyone? Here we are bringing democracy to Iraq and we can ban a book right here at home?"
Judge George did not return phone messages last week, asking whether in fact he had read "The Federal Mafia" before he banned it. But local attorney Richard Salas, who represented Schiff employee and co-defendant Larry Cohen in the March 19 appearance (Mr. Cohen has since dismissed his attorney, apparently preferring to represent himself) agrees: "They seem to proceed from the notion that everyone knows what Schiff says is outrageous, so it must be false."
Schiff attorney Noel Spaid of San Diego also agrees: "He didn't know the book at all, and I consider the injunction to be in violation of the First Amendment. ... It's vague and ambiguous; it doesn't specify what can and can't be done; it enjoins him from making statements 'against Internal Revenue law.' What does that mean? Search warrants have been quashed for vagueness that were more specific than that. ... We're going to argue that it's overly broad.
"This judge summarily decided Irwin's positions are frivolous; he made no in-depth study or analysis; he offered no sound, reasoned decision as to why Irwin's positions are wrong or frivolous."
"This is the first time I know of in the history of this country that a book has been banned where I'm not telling how to build a bomb; it's not pornographic." Schiff says.
"A restraining order is an extraordinary measure; it's designed for cases where someone is in imminent danger. It's not as though I'm brewing up explosives. The government said I cost them $54 million dollars over the past three years. So what was I going to cost them over the next three weeks? What was the big rush? Isn't the First Amendment more important?
"The United States government was established to protect rights," Schiff insists, "not to raise revenue. But now the courts see their first duty being to protect the raising of revenue. ... The government wants to ban me not because what I say is frivolous but because it's correct; anyone can verify it."
Federal statutes allow criminal prosecution of anyone who advises others to break the law, Schiff contends. "But they haven't filed any criminal charges. Why not? Because then we'd be in criminal court, where I'd get to cross-examine them under oath. ..."
"When you look at it, it's really a lot easier for the government to do it this way" -- through a civil action claiming damages in the form of lost tax revenues from those who have read Schiff's book -- Salas says. If the government chose the criminal route, "You can either prosecute someone for failing to file -- but they can't do that because the zero return is a return -- or you can charge fraudulent deductions. But then Mr. Schiff could get the forum he wants, he could probably win recognition as an expert witness, at which point he could take the stand to explain why he thinks people should be able to file a zero return."
Next week: Banning a book because it challenges "what everyone knows."
Vin Suprynowicz, assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal, is author of the books "Send in the Waco Killers" and "The Ballad of Carl Drega."
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