Kenneth L. Thomas’ “Reliance” on Benson (1986)
By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyrights 2003

From 1966 through 1976 Kenneth L. Thomas, a Field Engineer employed by IBM, filed his tax returns. He subsequently stopped, claiming that he had no tax liability and the government finally caught on – they indicted him on March 19, 1984 and charged Thomas with willfully failing to file tax returns for the tax years 1979, 1980, and 1981.

Note that they could not charge Thomas with 1977 and 1978 due to the 5 year statute of limitations, and they could not charge him with failure to file for tax years 1982 and 1983 because it was not yet too late to file those. A superseding indictment filed October 1, 1984, retained these three charges and added four more: failing to file tax returns for 1982 and 1983, and willfully filing false certificates asking his employer to cease all withholding on the ground that he was “exempt" from taxation.

The trial began on January 15, 1985. Thomas argued that he did not need to file tax returns because the Sixteenth Amendment was not part of the Constitution. Thomas insisted that it was not properly ratified, citing as his authority the argument of W. Benson & M. Beckman, The Law That Never Was (1985).

The jury convicted Thomas on all counts. The district court sentenced Thomas to a total of four years' imprisonment and fined him $22,000. Thomas filed an appeal.

On April 17, 1986, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals published an Opinion by Judge Easterbrook in which he stated:

“Benson and Beckman did not discover anything; they rediscovered something that Secretary Knox considered in 1913.”

“Thomas insists that because the states did not approve exactly the same text, the amendment did not go into effect. Secretary Knox considered this argument. The Solicitor of the Department of State drew up a list of the errors in the instruments and -- taking into account both the triviality of the deviations and the treatment of earlier amendments that had experienced more substantial problems -- advised the Secretary that he was authorized to declare the amendment adopted. The Secretary did so.”

“Although Thomas urges us to take the view of several state courts that only agreement on the literal text may make a legal document effective, the Supreme Court follows the "enrolled bill rule." If a legislative document is authenticated in regular form by the appropriate officials, the court treats that document as properly adopted. Secretary Knox declared that enough states had ratified the sixteenth amendment. The Secretary's decision is not transparently defective. We need not decide when, if ever, such a decision may be reviewed in order to know that Secretary Knox's decision is now beyond review.”

This Opinion, recorded as; United States Of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kenneth L. Thomas, Defendant-Appellant, Case No. 85-2120, United States Court Of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit, 788 F.2d 1250, is appended to this report for your review as Exhibit.

In reviewing this case, note that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was fully aware of Benson, his book in general, and the Sixteenth Amendment related issues in particular. They specifically referenced these, stated that the entire issue is now “beyond review,” and explained why.

Also note that, although some of Thomas’ convictions (Counts One through Three) were reversed, they were reversed under 18 USC §3162(a)(2) due to “speedy trial” issues. Benson’s 16th Amendment related issues were disposed of outright as irrelevant.

Rather than expect your Clients to accept your word for it, you can let them read the Decision, Order and Appendix for themselves. See Exhibit.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

© Copyright 2002 - Bill E. Branscum. All Rights Reserved.