The fact that you might be a tax protester isn’t quite enough to prove you’re mentally incompetent. In 2014, Don Gooch and Gerard Scott, two tax protesters, were convicted of an $8 million tax fraud scheme involving a problematic trust. The defendants appealed, arguing that the district court should have ordered competency evaluations before it allowed them to represent themselves. United States v. Gooch, Nos. 13-4286, 13-4289 (6th Cir. 2014).The Sixth Circuit Court upheld the convictions of the two defendants, ruling that holding tax protester theories wasn’t necessarily sufficient to cause a breakdown in communications with attorneys or to result in a misunderstanding of the legal proceedings. The Court decided that there had been no error in letting the defendants represent themselves because they insisted on doing so even after the court questioned them. Also, the lower court’s denial of the defendants’ request for a continuance had not been damaging, as the defendants had standby counsel familiar with the facts of the case.
(Adapted from a case summary by Christy Lee, which appeared in an issue of the American Bar Association Probate and Property Magazine.)