- 519 U.S. 54
OCTOBER TERM, 1996
UNITED STATES ET AL. v. JOSE, TRUSTEE OF JOSE BUSINESS TRUST ET AL.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 95-2082. Decided December 2,1996
In a proceeding to enforce two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summonses issued to respondent, petitioners, the United States and an IRS agent, represented that the documents sought were for a civil investigation. The Magistrate found the summonses valid and enforceable for the purpose stated. As the Magistrate recommended, the District Court ordered enforcement of the summonses, but required the IRS to give respondent five days' notice before transferring summoned information from its Examination Division to any other IRS office. Challenging the District Court's authority to impose such a restriction, the IRS appealed. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal as not ripe because the record did not indicate that the Examination Division had attempted to disclose the documents to any other IRS division; therefore the five-day notice requirement had not been triggered.
Held: The District Court issued a final, appealable order. Its decision dispositively granted in part and denied in part the remedy requested. The IRS prevailed to the extent that the District Court enforced the summonses, but did not prevail to the extent that the District Court imposed the five-day notice condition. With that disposition, the District Court completed its adjudication. This Court has expressly held that IRS summons enforcement orders are subject to appellate review. Church of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U. S. 9, 15. Finality, not ripeness, is the doctrine governing appeals from district court to circuit court. The Ninth Circuit cited, and this Court has found, no authority supporting the Ninth Circuit's cryptic declaration that the conditional enforcement order was not ripe for appeal. The Court expresses no opinion on the merits of the underlying dispute, but notes that the matter implicates an intercircuit conflict.
Certiorari granted; 71 F.3d 1484, reversed and remanded.
Petitioners, the United States of America and Leslie M.
Nishimura, Revenue Agent of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS or Service), commenced a proceeding to enforce two
IRS summonses issued to Laddie F. Jose, as trustee for the Jose Business Trust and Jose Family Trust. The Service represented to the Magistrate that the documents sought "are for the purpose of a civil investigation." App. to Pet. for Cert. 16a. The Magistrate found the summonses valid and enforceable for the purpose stated. He did not address the question whether the summons enforcement requirements "would be satisfied in the event petitioners decide to pursue a criminal tax investigation." Ibid. That question was not before him in view of the sole purpose-civil investigation-specified by the IRS. Ibid.
The Magistrate recommended that the District Court (1) enforce petitioners' summonses, and (2) require the IRS to give respondent five days' notice prior to any circulation or transfer of the summoned documents to any division of the IRS other than the Examination Division. Id., at 20a-21a.
Before the District Court, neither party objected to the finding that the alleged civil investigation was a legitimate purpose and that the summonses are valid and should be enforced. Id., at 16a. The single issue in controversy was "whether [the court] may restrict enforcement of petitioners' summonses by requiring the IRS to notify respondent five days in advance before circulating, transferring, or copying the summon[ed] documents to any other division of the IRS, including its [C]riminal Investigation Division." Id., at 15a. The District Court determined that the restriction was lawful and proper and entered a final order to that effect. Id., at 19a.
The Service appealed, asserting that the District Court lacked authority to impose the restriction. The Ninth Circuit correctly recognized that it had jurisdiction "pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1291," which authorizes appeals from "final decisions." It nonetheless dismissed the appeal "as not ripe." 71 F.3d 1484, 1485 (1995). The majority stated:
"The record indicates that the IRS represented to the district court that the documents requested of Jose were