A federal judge on Tuesday set a hearing for next week on a request from conservative group True the Vote, which is suing the Internal Revenue Service
, to investigate missing emails at the tax agency.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered the hearing after the group filed a motion to speed up discovery and "preserve and prevent further destruction" of documents and electronic data, The Wall Street Journal
True the Vote wants a forensic expert to investigate how the emails were lost and whether the missing data can be recovered. Walton set a hearing for July 11 in Washington.
The IRS has blamed a 2011 computer crash for missing emails belonging to former IRS official Lois Lerner, who's at the center of a scandal in which the agency allegedly subjected tea party and conservative groups to extra scrutiny.
IRS officials recovered about 24,000 of Lerner's emails
from 2009 to 2011 by searching other employees' computers.
The Journal noted Republican lawmakers worry that thousands more may be lost.
"Even if the ill-timed hard drive 'crash' was truly an accident, and even if the IRS genuinely believes that the emails are 'unrecoverable,' the circumstances of the spoliation at issue cry out for a second opinion," True the Vote's attorneys said in their motion, the Washington Examiner
"It may well prove to be the case that a computer forensics expert could recover evidence that the IRS has been unable to retrieve.
"At the very least, such an expert could preserve whatever evidence has not already been wiped clean from the IRS' computers along with whatever is stored on the individual defendants' home computers, cell phones, and other PDAs.," the attorneys said.
The IRS also has been ordered into federal court on July 10 to explain why the government failed to tell government watchdog group Judicial Watch
about the lost emails for months.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the IRS in October after officials didn't respond fully to a May 2013 Freedom of Information Act request for the Lerner emails.
The IRS did not comment to either publication.
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