United States v. LaSalle National Bank

In United States v. LaSalle National Bank, 437 U.S. 298, 98 S.Ct. 2357, 57 L.Ed.2d 221 (1978) the Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings a case in which the Seventh Circuit had affirmed the District Court's refusal to enforce a 7602 (of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954) summons. The four dissenters would have reversed and directed the courts below to enforce the summons without any further proceedings. In his opinion, Mr. Justice Blackmun framed the issue as follows (437 U.S. at 307-08, 98 S.Ct. at 2363): The present case requires us to examine the limits of the good-faith use of an Internal Revenue summons issued under 7602. As the preceding discussion demonstrates, Donaldson does not control the facts now before us. There, the taxpayer had argued that the mere potentiality of criminal prosecution should have precluded enforcement of the summons. 400 U.S. at 532, 91 S.Ct. 534 (at 543, 27 L.Ed.2d 580). Here, on the other hand, the District Court found that Special Agent Olivero was investigating Gattuso "solely for the purpose of unearthing evidence of criminal conduct." 76-1 U.S.T.C., at 84,073, 37 A.F.T.R.2d, at 76-1240. The question then becomes whether this finding necessarily leads to the conclusion that the summonses were not issued in good-faith pursuit of the congressionally authorized purposes of 7602. In LaSalle, Mr. Justice Blackmun concluded (at 316-317, 98 S.Ct. at 2367): As in Donaldson, then, where we refused to draw the line between permissible civil and impermissible criminal purposes at the entrance of the special agent into the investigation, 400 U.S. at 536, 91 S.Ct. 534 (at 545, 27 L.Ed.2d 580), we cannot draw it on the basis of the agent's personal intent. To do so would unnecessarily frustrate the enforcement of the tax laws by restricting the use of the summons according to the motivation of a single agent without regard to the enforcement policy of the Service as an institution. Furthermore, the Inquiry into the criminal enforcement objectives of the agent would delay summons enforcement proceedings while parties clash over, and judges grapple with, the thought processes of each investigator.17 See United States v. Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., (572 F.2d 36 (2d Cir. 1978)) supra. This obviously is undesirable and unrewarding. As a result, the question whether an investigation has solely criminal purposes must be answered only by an examination of the institutional posture of the IRS. Contrary to the assertion of respondents, this means that those opposing enforcement of a summons do bear the burden to disprove the actual existence of a valid civil tax determination or collection purpose by the Service. After all, the purpose of the good-faith inquiry is to determine whether the agency is honestly pursuing the goals of 7602 by issuing the summons.