Federal court demands IRS action

Internal Revenue Service officials finally are being called to account in court. They will have to explain to a federal judge how they “lost” a massive number of email messages sought for a congressional investigation.

It is about time the IRS scandal moved out of the halls of Congress and stories in the news media and into court. Despite what may be illegal actions in harassing conservative organizations, too little has been done at the IRS to punish offenders.

Many of those guilty of misdeeds may have thought failure by congressional investigators to obtain many emails involved in the scandal would get them off the hook. The messages in question were to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who headed the division involved in the harassment. Agency officials insist the emails were lost because Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed and there was no backup for her messages.

It is that contention U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, in Washington, wants explained under oath.

But Sullivan is not acting in a case brought by the Justice Department. He is sitting in a civil lawsuit brought by the Judicial Watch organization.

The failure of the Justice Department to pursue this matter aggressively is, if anything, a more disturbing problem than the tax agency’s offenses.

That, too, should be the subject of a federal court inquiry.