Federal Court Imposes Frivolous-Argument Penalty in Too Brief Opinion

October 9, 2008

Les. R. Reid must pay $8,000 in penalties for filing a frivolous tax appeal, on top of his back taxes and other penalties and interest, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on October 7. United States v. Reid, No. 08-50356.

This opinion is characteristic of many such opinions dealing with tax deniers-it’s terse and uninformative. Aside from two pithy quotations, little attention is given to Reid’s arguments other than to dismiss them out of hand. That may well be the correct result, given that Reid did not dispute the tax assessment, but instead claimed not to have to pay taxes because he is not a U.S. citizen and that the court has no jurisdiction over him. These are valid arguments one can make, though the court’s notation that Reid did so in a brief filled with a “hodgepodge of unsupported assertions, irrelevant platitudes, and legalistic gibberish” suggests that he’s hardly a persecuted innocent.

But the opinion is not good legal work. If Reid’s arguments are meritless, it shouldn’t take much to refute them with sound legal reasoning that can be used in future cases. Here, the court doesn’t even restate Reid’s arguments, much less analyze them meaningfully.

No word on whether this is the same Les R. Reid who had a frivolous appeal rejected in California in 2000. That opinion is much better, as it dissects Reid’s arguments one by one (that “citizens of the California Republic” cannot be taxed by the federal government and the mistaken 861 argument). Perhaps the lower courts already did this in the current case, but the Fifth Circuit shouldn’t hand out huge penalties without substantial justification.

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