The latest Freedom of Information Act lawsuit involves a lawsuit over the freedom of speech rights of the Pennsylvania State Police. In 2021, the State Police changed their use of the word “freedom” to something else in their license plate number. What exactly was changed was not immediately apparent, and in order to protect their newly minted license plate, the State Police sent a letter to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles stating that any use of the word “freedom” on any state authorized license plate must be construed as approved license plate etiquette. The state police was then issued a new license plate for their cruiser which read “freedom”, and the problem is still ongoing.
At this point, one would think that perhaps liberty would be more appropriately protected under freedom of speech law. However, as the PA House of Representatives found out recently, there are two major problems with the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit here. First, the PA zoning code specifically provides that when the term “freedom” is used on a license plate it must mean the same thing as the term “public access”. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the state’s official website itself does not include the term “freedom of information” even though it does list numerous statutes that pertain to public access. This leaves many citizens and restaurant owners confused as to what the state considers to be the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Unfortunately, there is another possible roadblock that may prevent the liberty of information lawsuit from reaching the conclusion desired by its advocates – confusion. For instance, when the dispute was filed, the government was representing to the court that there was an essential difference between freedom of speech and the Freedom of Information Act. Because of the confusion that has occurred throughout the litigation process, it appears that the government is attempting to argue that it is not necessary to protect the freedom of information when it is the government’s desire to maintain control of that information through the use of the tax dollars.
While it is entirely possible that the government’s argument regarding the Freedom of Information Act could hold water, one would have to ask if the government’s position should even have merit. The first issue that arises is that a simple majority is needed to support the claim that the Freedom of Information Act is at odds with the revenue laws of the state of Wyoming. However, the state Supreme Court has held that a simple majority is required for constitutional issues to be considered binding. Therefore, it may very well be the case that the Wyoming Tax Levy Lawsuit will need to raise the issues that the plaintiffs have argued all along in their effort to obtain the information. If the plaintiffs are able to raise the issue of the confusion surrounding the levy, the court may have the opportunity to rule that the state has a compelling interest in pursuing the tax foreclosure as part of its mandate of the levy.
There were a number of post-tax issues that arose in the initial stages of the litigation. One of these issues involved, whether a post-tax issue could be raised after the original filing of the lien. The court has indicated that post-tax issues do not need to be raised unless there is a misrepresentation of material facts within the initial filing. However, the court did state that such misrepresentations can be raised later on during the course of the lawsuit when it is alleged that the misrepresentation was made in the course of the preparation of the form.
The final post tax issue dealt with whether the reposting of the tax lien was itself a representation of material misstatements. The United States District Court for the Western District of Wyoming has indicated that whether or not a reposting of the tax lien is a representation of material misstatements requires additional cases and courts outside of the Western District of Wyoming to determine. Therefore, if you are seeking a refund or other form of compensation for an IRS issue that arose in a Wyoming tax case, it is important to be aware that such issues may be raised in any state in which the taxpayer filed. For further information, it may be useful to speak with a licensed attorney who specializes in Wyoming tax law. This will ensure that your interests are safeguarded and that you receive the highest level of justice possible in the form of a refund or other form of appropriate compensation.