If someone does not want to hire a tax attorney, can the court force the taxpayer to hire one? The court addresses this issue in the United States v. Baucom, 486 F.3d 822, 829 (4th Cir. 2007) (and combined United States v. Davis) court case.
The Facts & Procedural History
Taxpayers Martin Louis Baucom and Patrick Grant Davis were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willful failure to file tax returns. After being indicted the taxpayers were given the opportunity to hire a competent tax attorney.
The taxpayers sent “questionnaires” to potential tax attorneys in an effort to hire tax counsel. The court informed the taxpayers that this was not an appropriate means for obtaining a tax attorney and it gave the taxpayers additional time to obtain tax counsel.
A Little Help From a Friend
The taxpayers then asked the court to allow their non-attorney friend to represent them in their criminal tax matter. The taxpayers’ request – which was sent to the judge, who was also an attorney – stated:
Defendant . . . has little confidence in the legal profession . . . . Defendant is aware of a few attorneys he trusts, but their multi-thousand dollar fees are out of the question . . . . He does NOT trust just any attorney out of a grab-bag whom the government is willing to furnish; neither would this defendant be satisfied with such an “attorney’s” concept of the Constitution of the United States after the average attorney, full of law-school brainwashing, thinks that the Constitution is what the judges say it is, rather than what the Constitution itself, says it is.
The court admonished the taxpayers for “continuing to send questionnaires to potential attorneys after having been advised that this was not an effective means of obtaining counsel” and the court gave the taxpayers additional time to find a tax attorney.
Final Refusal to Hire a Tax Attorney
The taxpayers responded by filing:
a document entitled “AFFIDAVIT & DECLARATION OF CONTINUED EFFORTS TO SEEK COMPETENT COUNSEL.” The document contained numerous citations of Washington State cases and procedural rules. Among other things, Davis asserted that “[t]his court has NO authority to appoint me counsel over my objections”; “I can and will sue any Attorney for ineffective assistance of counsel who is appointed to my case over my objections”; and that “I can and will sue the person who picked my attorney and appointed him to me over my objections if said attorney loses my case.”
Fifteen months after the indictments, the court finally said that the taxpayers had had sufficient time to obtain a tax attorney, they refused to do so, and, therefore, the criminal trial would proceed with the taxpayers representing themselves.
The Result of Not Hiring a Tax Attorney
The trial commenced and the taxpayers were convicted. The court sentenced Baucom to fifteen months imprisonment. The court considered Davis’ charitable works in imposing a light four years probation (conditioned on the service of 12 months of house arrest). The taxpayers appealed the convictions and they lost.
So the takeaway is this: while the courts cannot require the taxpayer to hire a tax attorney, the taxpayers have to live with the consequences of not hiring one.