By Patrick Temple-West WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Internal Revenue Service will go before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to defend the way it enforces its power to issue legal summonses to obtain sensitive documents from taxpayers who refuse to cooperate with audits. The IRS is squaring off against Michael Clarke, a West Palm Beach, Florida, investor who is arguing that the U.S. tax agency in 2011 improperly issued a summons "as retribution" against him and his business partners for resisting an audit. Clarke maintains, according to court filings, that the IRS should have to explain its summons intentions at an evidentiary hearing before a court order is approved by a judge. Taxpayers cannot "engage in a fishing expedition about the motives of IRS agents," the government said in court documents, adding that a win for Clarke would bog down tax enforcement with another layer of litigation.
Secretary of State John Kerry attested Tuesday to the massively complex challenges Washington faces in Ukraine, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, declaring "it was easier" during the Cold War. In a candid moment during a State Department speech, the top US diplomat said changing global power dynamics made a quaint memory of the early East-West stalemate, when American children would "crouch under our desks at school and practice" safety steps for a possible nuclear attack.
By Joan Biskupic WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum voiced doubts on Tuesday about a state law that prohibits false statements during a political campaign. The Ohio law allows candidates and other citizens to file a complaint for allegedly false slogans, prompting a state election commission hearing and public scrutiny of advocacy groups' or individuals' claims in the middle of a campaign. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee, speculated that calling in a group's leaders "to justify what (they're) going to say" could impinge on free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Democratic appointee, observed that simply being forced to defend an advertisement could be costly and diminish speech at a crucial point in a campaign.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a blow to the use of racial preferences in higher education by upholding a Michigan law that bans the practice in state university admissions. The court made it clear it was not deciding the larger and divisive question of whether affirmative action admission policies can be lawful. The majority opinion rejected the argument made by civil right groups that the 2006 Michigan constitutional amendment that passed as a ballot initiative to ban the practice had imposed burdens on racial minorities in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. Affirmative action programs, first advocated in the 1960s to combat discrimination against racial minorities, have faced a backlash from conservatives in recent decades.
(Reuters) - The federal judge overseeing Detroit's historic bankruptcy case tapped a top restructuring official at Phoenix Management Services on Tuesday to help the court determine if the city's plan to adjust its $18 billion of debt is feasible. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes also named Richard Ravitch as a consultant to the court on municipal finance matters. Ravitch, who advised New York City during its fiscal crisis in the 1970s and who had served as a New York State lieutenant governor, agreed to consult for free and will not be required to testify in the case, according to the judge's order. Martha Kopacz, a senior managing director at Phoenix Management Services in Boston, beat out four other applicants, including Ravitch, for the position of expert witness.