Jenner & Block

US Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in High-Profile Dispute about IRS Tax Obstruction Statute

Jenner & Block Partner Matthew S. Hellman argued before the US Supreme Court on December 6, 2017, in the high-profile case Marinello v. United States.

According to an article in The National Law Journal (subscription required), Mr. Hellman told the justices that the firm’s client, Carlo Marinello, “was not charged with or convicted of felony tax evasion, and he does not challenge his misdemeanor convictions…But he does challenge his felony obstruction conviction under §7212(a), which was premised on his failure to maintain records and other acts and omissions not taken in the context of any IRS proceeding or investigation.”

In a related article (subscription required), Mr. Hellman told Bloomberg Law that, “when the number of potential obstructive acts is basically unlimited, like paying in cash or not consulting an accountant, and the only question is whether you did it to make the IRS's job harder, they could pick their defendant.”

The firm represents Mr. Marinello on a pro bono basis.  He is challenging a Second Circuit decision upholding his felony conviction for obstructing an IRS investigation.  The government reads the statute to criminalize any “corrupt” act that ultimately hinders the administration of the tax code.  The firm argues that the obstruction statute should be interpreted like other obstruction statutes—to apply when the defendant intends to hinder an IRS proceeding that he or she knows about.

“In the absence of a government action there is no line. It's hard to say I can obstruct if I throw away receipts or pay in cash, even if I think that might lessen the likelihood of an audit or likelihood of having to pay if I am audited if there's an ongoing government action,” said Partner Geoffrey M. Davis in Bloomberg Law.

The case was also covered in an additional article by The National Law Journal.

In addition to Mr. Hellman and Mr. Davis, others on the team include Partner David Bitkower and Associates Corinne M. Smith and Michael E. Stewart.  The firm was assisted by the Jenner & Block University of Chicago Law School Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic.

 

PEOPLE: Geoffrey M. Davis (Geoff), Matthew S. Hellman, Corinne M. Smith, Michael E. Stewart, David Bitkower