Tax Court interviews conclude; deliberations begin

October 27, 2010
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Reporter Mike Hoskins wrote this post.

Here is the final set of three interviews, after the commission interviewed four earlier today.

Martha Wentworth: Responding to the question about what a tax judge contributes to jurisprudence and the overall judiciary, Wentworth said she looked back on many years of “State of the Judiciary” speeches to analyze the journey the state judiciary has taken. She said the Tax Court uses its regular court tools to address substantive tax jurisprudence, but also uses those tools on constitutional questions and principles of administration. You have to bring personality to any job that you have, she said, and a look back at her experience shows she has spent time advocating for continuing education and professionalism and collegiality.

Judges can’t and shouldn’t legislate, but the Tax Court can help lawmakers understand tax law and issues. Unintended consequences of state statute changes seems to be the most frequent issue, and she’s a true believer that everyone must work together to some extent in understanding the challenges of the legislature and executive branch and the tax court itself. Wentworth said the state faces so many intriguing and challenging legal questions on tax law, such as what is considered distortion on taxes, the amount of discretion the Department of Revenue has in allowing separate corporate entities to file separate or joint returns, and how the state agency can discretionarily change federal taxable income. While Wentworth acknowledged that she’d be giving up a lot professionally, she said it’s worth it because of the pride she takes in Indiana having fair and strong caselaw, and ensuring that Indiana stand outs on tax law and in the overall judiciary.

Dan Carwile: He sees a transition from the private sector to this as completely appropriate, and said he’s demonstrated that he’s a leader in his community and profession. Through its regular court resources and the programs the state judiciary offers, the Tax Court judge can address the economic issues and sometimes can address a poor public perception of the court system. Judges can go too far and be too aggressive in communicating with the legislature, he said, and a balance must be struck through scholarly writing and presentations and even in general expertise-sharing with lawmakers. The next Tax Court judge must be a strategic thinker in helping the judiciary move forward, and caseload efficiency is an important part of that, as is protecting and enhancing Indiana’s national reputation as a leader. He sees tax exemptions on property as an issue that will likely be before the court more regularly in coming years.

Hon. Carol Comer: Judge Comer talked about her 15 years on the administrative and regulatory side of the law and five years as Administrative Law Judge. She believes this experience, particularly in handling small docket type claims, has paved the way for this judicial opening and her work in this area gives her insight into what pro se litigants face. She says the court process is frightening to non-lawyers, and that the judiciary and Tax Court must do its best to offer transparency and access to the public. She said claims can act as summons and the court’s Web page can offer more information about enacting court procedures. Possible moves could be to create a sample docket for the public to see how a case might proceed, or to create a hotline for people to learn about the process and what to expect. Just as the Department of Revenue allows for online tax filing and payment, the court could do something like that to increase public accessibility. In the past several years, she’s observed a tremendous change in how the state agencies work on these tax and financial issues and that the Board of Tax Review has become more impartial for taxpayers and regular reversals isn’t the norm any longer.
 

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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