Gaetano v. United States, 110619 FED6, 19-1122

Docket Nº:19-1122
Opinion Judge:SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:Richard Gaetano; Kimberly Basehart Gaetano, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. United States of America; Maurice Eadie; Kelly A. Williams, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Joseph Falcone, JOSEPH FALCONE, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants. Deborah K. Snyder, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellees. Joseph Falcone, JOSEPH FALCONE, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants. Deborah K. Snyder, Gretchen M. Wolfinger, UNITED STATES ...
Judge Panel:Before: SUTTON, COOK, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 06, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Richard Gaetano; Kimberly Basehart Gaetano, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

United States of America; Maurice Eadie; Kelly A. Williams, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 19-1122

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 6, 2019

Argued: October 24, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:17-cv-11839-Bernard A. Friedman, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Joseph Falcone, JOSEPH FALCONE, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants.

Deborah K. Snyder, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Joseph Falcone, JOSEPH FALCONE, P.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellants.

Deborah K. Snyder, Gretchen M. Wolfinger, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

Before: SUTTON, COOK, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Richard and Kimberly Gaetano trusted Gregory Goodman as their legal advisor and business partner in running a cannabis operation. That trust was spurned. The Gaetanos ended the relationship after ethics violations undid Goodman's license to practice law. He retaliated by assisting the Internal Revenue Service in a tax audit against them. Concerned about what Goodman might reveal, the Gaetanos sued the government to prevent it from discussing attorney-client confidences with him. The Anti-Injunction Act bars the lawsuit, and the Williams Packing exception does not apply. See 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a); Enochs v. Williams Packing & Navig. Co., 370 U.S. 1 (1962).

I.

Husband and wife Richard and Kimberly Gaetano run 420 Wellness Dispensary. As the name suggests (to some), they sell cannabis. Assisting them in this operation was Gregory Goodman, a lawyer. Trouble began in 2010 when the Gaetanos, with Goodman's help, attempted to transfer shares in their business to another cannabis company, AgraTek. The shares, as it happens, were not theirs to transfer. They had already been purchased by Green-VisionTek, one of AgraTek's rivals.

Green-VisionTek did not react well to the transaction. It sued the Gaetanos, Goodman, and 420 Wellness. And it filed a disciplinary complaint against Goodman for good measure. An ethics inquiry cast an unflattering light on Goodman. He had negotiated future employment with AgraTek while representing 420 Wellness in the purchase agreement. From that point on, he began double-dealing. When the Gaetanos contemplated breaking off their arrangement with AgraTek, for instance, Goodman encouraged them to reconsider. To make matters worse, Goodman reached into the pot of money used to secure the purchase agreement and helped himself to a generous (and unauthorized) attorney's fee. Trying to cover his tracks, he manufactured fake emails that he presented under oath in civil litigation and in the state ethics proceedings.

Goodman lost his license to practice law in June 2014. The Gaetanos apparently did not learn of this fact until that October, when they severed their relationship with him. We don't know the specifics of their parting. But it's fair to infer that it was not amicable.

That brings us to 2017, when the Internal Revenue Service began an audit of the Gaetanos' 2014 and 2015 tax returns. As part of this investigation, it sent a letter to Goodman asking for assistance. Goodman saw an opportunity. He notified the Gaetanos of the IRS's request. Unless they gave him a "significant down-payment," he threatened, he would "make a final push in the second half of 2017" to see them "take[n] down" and "led away in handcuffs." R. 16-4 at 11. When they did not oblige, Goodman sent a series of menacing emails, warning them to "get used to being tailed" and assuring them that their lives would "go[] down in flames" unless they paid him his due. R. 16-4 at 13. The Gaetanos reached out to the IRS through a new attorney, insisting that it cease contact with Goodman and destroy whatever privileged information he had shared.

The extortion unsuccessful, Goodman made good on his threat to call the IRS. According to the agent who handled the phone call, Goodman "was upfront that he ha[d] an axe...

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