Pro se appellant Kathleen Marino appeals from a district court judgment dismissing her action for lack of jurisdiction and denying her motion for reconsideration. We affirm. In addition, we grant the government's request for sanctions, albeit in a lesser amount than requested.
The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien on Marino's property relative to her income tax liability for the 1996 tax year. On October 29, 2002, a Collection Due Process ("CDP") hearing was held, at which Marino contested her underlying income tax liability.
On November 27, 2002, appellee Brown issued a Notice of Determination upholding the lien. Brown instructed Marino to file any challenge to the determination in the Tax Court. Citing the Pierson case, she reminded Marino that seeking review primarily for delay and asserting frivolous
Marino then filed the instant petition against Brown in the district court, seeking review of the IRS's determination. Although the IRS was seeking to collect on an income tax liability, she asserted that the case involved "employment taxes." The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, without opposition by Marino. In an endorsed order, the district court granted the motion, stating: "ALLOWED, the motion appearing well founded and no opposition having been filed. See True v. Commissioner, 108 F.Supp.2d 1361, 1364 (M.D.Fla.2000)."
Marino then asked the court to reconsider. She contended that she had not received a copy of the government's motion to dismiss and argued that the district court had jurisdiction over her petition. In an endorsed order, the district court denied her motion, stating that "no good cause [had] been shown to reconsider on the merits, even if plaintiff did not previously receive a copy of the motion to dismiss."
Marino appealed the district court's orders dismissing her petition and denying reconsideration.
The parties essentially agree that the Tax Court has jurisdiction over cases involving an underlying income tax liability.
There is no question that the government's position is the correct one. The documents attached to Marino's district court petition — e.g., the Notice of Federal Tax Lien — verify that the lien was based on her income tax liability for the 1996 tax year. Accordingly, the Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction, and Marino should have filed her petition for review in that court, as appellee Brown advised her to do. Under the circumstances, we readily affirm the district court's judgment. See Skwira v. United States, 344 F.3d 64, 71 (1st Cir.2003) (in dismissals for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court of appeals reviews the district court's predicate fact-finding for clear error and uses de novo review for its "ultimate conclusion regarding the existence vel non of subject matter jurisdiction").
In a separate motion, the government asks this court to impose a $4,000 "lump sum" sanction on Marino for her frivolous appeal, citing Fed. R.App. P. 38 and 28 U.S.C. § 1912.
Marino opposes the request for sanctions. Among other things, she claims that she did not appeal in bad faith or with intent to harass, that she is pro se, that she had no notice that her arguments were frivolous, and that her actions did not cause any delay. She does not contend that she cannot pay the amount requested, and she has not questioned the government's evidence.
Marino's objections lack merit. Sanctions are appropriate whenever the appeal, objectively viewed, is completely frivolous, as it was in this instance. J. Moore, 16A Federal Practice & Procedure, § 3984.1, at 647-50 (3d ed.2003) (stating that subjective motivation is irrelevant where an appeal is "utterly without merit"). Moreover, we have routinely sanctioned pro se taxpayers who pursue frivolous appeals. E.g., Kelly v. United States, 789 F.2d 94, 98 (1st Cir. 1986) (per curiam). While imposing double costs in past cases, we have warned that filing frivolous appeals will expose pro se taxpayers to "the full range of sanctions," including a flat damages award in lieu of attorney's fees and costs. Lefebvre v. Commissioner, 830 F.2d 417, 420, 421 (1st Cir.1987) (per curiam). Other circuits have routinely imposed the latter-type flat sanction in frivolous taxpayer appeals, id. at 420 & n. 4 (citing the cases).
The government's request for a lump sum sanction is reasonable. We see no point in requiring the government to submit a detailed statement of its fees and costs, which would prolong the present proceedings at further expense to the government and this court. See Parker v. Commissioner, 117 F.3d 785, 787 (5th Cir. 1997) (per curiam) (describing the advantages of making a lump sum award under Rule 38).
The $4,000 sanction requested by the government — which may be less than its actual cost of defending this appeal — is also reasonable. However, because this is the first case involving a pro se taxpayer in which we impose a significantly higher sanction than double costs, we set the sanction in this instance at $2,000. We warn those who may contemplate filing frivolous appeals in similar egregiously meritless cases of this type that, when warranted, we may well be expected to impose the figure of at least $4,000 in future such appeals.
Affirmed. A sanction of $2,000 is imposed on the appellant. See Fed. R.App. P. 38; 28 U.S.C. § 1912.