House panel to vote on whether IRS worker's right not to testify

WASHINGTON – A House committee is planning to challenge whether an Internal Revenue Service supervisor properly invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination at a hearing on the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

Lois Lerner used to oversee the IRS division that targeted groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. At a May 22 hearing, she invoked her right not to answer lawmakers’ questions after declaring in an opening statement that she had done nothing wrong.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to vote Friday on whether Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions by making an opening statement.

Several law professors were skeptical about the committee’s case.

The IRS has placed Lerner on administrative leave.

Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor, said he disagreed with the committee’s claim.

“There was nothing voluntary about her statement,” he said in a statement. “She had informed (the) committee that she would invoke and requested to be excused and (the) committee ordered her to appear and invoke her rights in public.

“It went so far as to serve a subpoena on her to assure that she would be compelled to attend, unlike other witnesses who appeared voluntarily. In any event, protesting your innocence and invoking the right not to answer questions, which is what she did, is not a waiver.”