By  – Apr 4, 2004, 11:00pm CDT Updated Apr 1, 2004, 5:27pm EST

Due to the year-long efforts of a Houston attorney, two former lawyers with the Internal Revenue Service have been barred from practicing before the U.S. Tax Court for two years, and the state of Arkansas has suspended the license of one for a year.

Michael Minns last year won an appeal before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 1,300 airline pilots who had been wrongly assessed more than $2.6 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest by the IRS. (See “Pilots come out on top in legal battle with IRS,” Feb. 3, 2003.)

During the appellate process, it was discovered that the IRS attorneys had negotiated a secret deal with two of the pilots by offering to reduce their payments in return for cooperation on the witness stand.

In handing down a decision, the circuit court claimed the two IRS attorneys had committed “a fraud on both the taxpayers and the tax court,” and urged Minns to pursue disciplinary measures.

But that wasn’t easy.

Spending his own time and money, Minns tracked down the states where Richard A. Sims and Kenneth W. McQuade were licensed to practice and filed complaints with the state bars. He also petitioned the U.S. Tax Court to investigate the case.

Minns was set to appear in an Arkansas court as a witness against Sims next month when the local attorney was notified last week that the Arkansas Supreme Court had suspended Sims’ license for one year.

The Arkansas court took the action after learning in late February that both Sims and McQuade had been barred from appearing in U.S. Tax Court until February 2006.

Minns estimates he spent $20,000, not counting his time, on pursuing disciplinary action against the two IRS attorneys. – Monica Perin