U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton has given IRS officials only five workdays to produce a signed affidavit explaining why Lois Lerner's computer hard drive "cannot be identified and preserved."

Walton's ruling was issued late Friday following two hours of detailed questioning of IRS officials concerning a motion by the nonprofit, True the Vote.

The nonprofit was one of hundreds of Tea Party and conservative nonprofit applicants targeted by the IRS for illegal harassment during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

The group filed a civil lawsuit against the IRS earlier this year and is now seeking the court's approval of an independent forensic expert selected by True the Vote.

The expert would assess the IRS explanation for a computer hard drive crash that allegedly destroyed emails to and from Lerner and six colleagues to individuals at other federal agencies and outside of the government.

Government attorneys argued that True the Vote was asking for something that was already being done in an investigation by the IRS inspector general.

But Walton appeared concerned about the qualifications of the IG investigators conducting that probe and how long their investigation will last.

As a result, Walton ordered that IRS officials return to court no later than July 18 with the signed affidavit that:

“1. Outlines the expertise and qualifications of the individual or individuals currently conducting the forensic examination as part of the Inspector General’s investigation.

“2. Outlines the expertise and qualifications of the individual or individuals who previously conducted forensic examinations or otherwise attempted to recover information from the computer hard drive at issue.

“3. Provides a projected date of completion of the Inspector General’s investigation.

“4. States whether the serial number, if any, assigned to the computer hard drive at issue is known; and

“5. If the serial number is known, why the computer hard drive cannot be identified and preserved.”

Walton's Friday order was preceded the day before by a ruling in another federal court that covers much of the same ground.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday ordered agency officials to produce a sworn affidavit by Aug. 10 explaining how the emails were lost and how they may be retrieved from other sources.

Sullivan's order came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking Lerner's emails that was filed last October by the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch.

The watchdog group's lawsuit came after IRS officials failed to respond to a FOIA seeking the Lerner emails in May 2013. The government failed to tell Judicial Watch that the emails were allegedly lost.

Both the True the Vote and Judicial Watch suits are being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Editor's note: Judicial Watch is representing the Washington Examiner in the newspaper's federal lawsuit seeking access to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records under FOIA.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.