Friday, June 21, 2019

Former Tax Division Attorney Pleads to Tax Perjury (6/22/19; 6/22/19)

DOJ Tax announced here that James F. Miller, a former Tax Division attorney, pled guilty to willfully filing a false tax return that "underreported his gross income on his 2010 through 2014 tax returns by approximately $2,215,587."  The plea count was § 7206(1) which is a three year felony.  The announcement indicates that he agreed to pay $735,933 restitution.

According to my database, Mr. Miller served as an attorney in the Tax Division Appellate Section from 1979 to 1983.

Update 6/22/19 10:15am:  Peter Reilly, a frequent and interesting commentator on the tax scene, has posted an entry on Miller's plea and some of the background information.  Peter J. Reilly, Tax Lawyer Turned Lobbyist Pleads Guilty To Leaving Over $2M Off Tax Returns (Forbes 6/22/19), here.   I highly recommend Peter's discussion.  Peter offers links for further information on Miller.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Death of James Dewey O'Brien (6/19/18; 6/24/19)

Dewey O'Brien, known to and loved by many of the "old-timer" DOJ Tax Alumni, died June 18.  I received notice of his death from his son, Daniel O'Brien.  I do not have a link right now to an internet offering with further information, but I post below an obituary sent to me by his son, Dan O'Brien, which  I think will be sent to the Washington Post and perhaps other publications (see the links below).
Mr. O’Brien was born in rural Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. Growing up under difficult circumstances after the death of his mother when he was eight-years old and the onset of the Great Depression at age 12, he forged a remarkable career and a reputation as a kind and cheerful optimist.   
After working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1938. During the war, he saw action in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific Theaters, most notably the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer, served on the staff of Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin, and was awarded the Bronze Star after a kamikaze plane struck his ship, the USS Natoma Bay.  
After the war, he attended Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches where he met his future wife, Neoma R. O’Kelley. He obtained his law degree from Louisiana State University.  
Committed to public service, he worked to support orphanages in Louisiana. Assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he formed a citizens committee that investigated and prosecuted public corruption within the state government and judiciary.   
After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress, he was hired by the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division in 1953 where he prosecuted criminal tax cases for most of his career. He was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division during the Ford Administration.   
Upon retirement, Mr. O’Brien gave pro bono legal assistance to many genealogical, patriotic, and hereditary organizations as a national officer, member, or friend, including: Sons of the American Revolution, First Families of Connecticut, the Crown of Charlemagne, and Early Quakers. On April 12, 2014, the National Huguenot Society awarded him the NHS Distinguished Service Medal, one of his prized possessions.
He is the author of two books, “Our Colonial Ancestors,” a genealogical study, and “An American Experience, The First Ninety-Three Years,” an autobiography.  
He is survived by his wife, Neoma, and four children, Terrence C. O’Brien of Venice, California, Kathleen E. O’Brien Lockwood of Reston, Virginia, Michael S. O’Brien of Waldorf, Maryland, and Daniel J. O’Brien of Redondo Beach, California, as well as four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Services will be held June 25 at the Kalas Funeral Home in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Mr. O’Brien will be buried at Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Links for further information are:
  • Washington Post Obituary (6/23/19), here.
  • Natchitoches Times, here.
JAT Comment:  I'm sure you all can feel the love of the son in the brief obituary.  Dewey had some remarkable experiences in his life that made him the great attorney and friend that he was.  So, I can add to the obituary that my own observation that he was a friend and mentor to those of us who encountered him in the Tax Division.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Jennifer Wilson Nominated to be U.S. District Judge for MD Penn (5/4/19)

Jennifer Wilson, a Tax Division Alum, has been nominated by President Trump to  the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  The White House release is here.  The release says:
Jennifer Philpott Wilson of Pennsylvania, to serve as Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 

Jennifer Wilson is a Partner with Philpott Wilson LLP, in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, where her practice includes civil litigation, criminal defense, and family law matters.  Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Wilson served as a Trial Attorney with the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and was an Associate with Chadbourne & Park LLP.  She has been an Adjunct Professor at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, teaching a course on “Written Advocacy and Judicial Opinions.”  Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Wilson served as a law clerk to Judge Jon P. McCalla of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee and to Judge Julio M. Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ms. Wilson earned her B.A., cum laude, from Swarthmore College and her J.D., summa cum laude, from Brooklyn Law School, where she served as the Executive Notes and Comments Editor for the Brooklyn Law Review.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Renée McDonald Hutchins Appointed Dean of Law School (4/22/19)

Renée McDonald Hutchins, a DOJ Tax Alumnus, has been appointed Dean of the University of the the David A. Clarke School of Law (University of the District of Columbia Law School).  See press release here.  The relevant excerpt about her DOJ Tax experience is:
Hutchins moved to Washington, D.C., in 1997 to work as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. She served as a trial attorney in the Criminal Enforcement Section of the department’s Tax Division as well as a special assistant in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Her work with the Department of Justice brought her to the attention of Sills Cummis & Gross, where she became a Senior Associate in the firm’s white-collar criminal defense and general civil litigation practice in 2000.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Grimberg Nominated to be U.S. District Judge (4/4/19)

On April 2, 2019, President Trump nominated Steven D. Grimberg to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Atlanta.  The announcement is here, which I just cut and paste because it is brief:
Steven D. Grimberg of Georgia, to serve as a District Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. 
Steven Grimberg is a Managing Director and General Counsel of Nardello & Co., where he heads the global investigation firm’s Atlanta, Georgia, office.  Before joining the firm in 2018, Mr. Grimberg prosecuted white collar crimes as an Assistant United States Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Economic Crimes Section in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and as a Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Tax Division.  Mr. Grimberg also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Emory University School of Law, teaching courses on criminal procedure, criminal law, and trial advocacy.  He received his J.D., with distinction, from Emory University School of Law and B.A., with honors, from the University of Florida.
According to his current firm bio, here:
Steven served as an Assistant United States Attorney and a Deputy Chief of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, where he investigated and prosecuted numerous complex white collar criminal cases involving corporate fraud, embezzlement, public corruption, insider trading, tax evasion, computer hacking, bank fraud, and health care fraud. 
During his time with the US Attorney’s office, Steven helped supervise a section of approximately 25 federal white collar prosecutors and other professionals. He developed and led a Cyber Crime Unit, comprised of prosecutors who worked closely with highly-skilled law enforcement agents from the FBI, United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies to investigate, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute some of the most prolific cyber-criminal organizations in the world. Steven served as a National Security Cyber Specialist for the US Department of Justice, which meant that he was the point of contact in the Atlanta metro area for all cyber-related threats and attacks that had national security implications. He regularly engaged in outreach to the private sector, collaborating on cyber defense practices through one-on-one meetings, seminars, panels, task forces, table top exercises, and case interactions. 
Steven served for over 12 years in various capacities at the US Department of Justice, during which time he received numerous awards and recognitions, including the prestigious US Department of Justice Director’s Award on two occasions. Prior to becoming a prosecutor, he worked in private practice for seven years representing clients in complex civil litigation across the country.
I don't have information about the DOJ Tax section(s) in which he worked.  If anyone has that information, please either post it as a comment or email me at jack@tjtaxlaw.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Desmond Confirmed and Sworn in as Chief Counsel (3/19/19)

See Michael Desmond Confirmed And Sworn In As Trump's First IRS Chief Counsel (Tax Prof Blog 3/18/19), here.  His Wikipedia page is here.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mike Cox Named VP Taxation for Norfolk Southern (1/24/19)

Michael F. ("Mike") Cox has been named Vice-President Taxation.  See Norfolk Southern names Michael F. Cox vice president taxation (Cision Newswire 1/23/19), here.  The announcement says only with respect to his service in that Tax Division that he was a trial attorney there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Clare E. Connors Nominated as Attorney General for Hawaii (1/8/19)

Clare E. Connors has been appointed to be the Attorney General of the State of Hawaii.  She awaits Senate confirmation.  See Former assistant U.S. attorney picked to be Hawaii's new attorney general (Khon2 1/3/19), here.  Her Wikipedia page is here.

She had previously been nominated by President Obama named to a district court judge slot, but the nomination expired at the end of Obama's term.  See Wikipedia page above; and Clare E. Connors Nominated for Federal District Court Slot (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 9/9/15), here.

Mike Desmond Nomination as Chief Counsel Stymied (1/9/18)

I picked this up from Checkpoint Newstand for 1/9/19:
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has remained steadfast in blocking Senate floor action on the nomination of Michael Desmond to serve as IRS chief counsel. As described on the agency's website, the chief counsel "serves as the chief legal advisor to the IRS Commissioner on all matters pertaining to the interpretation, administration, and enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code, as well as all other legal matters". There was some hope that Desmond's nomination would come before the full Senate before the end of December but that was not the case. Menendez's office confirmed to the media that he had delayed floor action on the nomination. On Jan. 3, the Senate Finance Committee returned Desmond's nomination, along with a number of other nominations, to President Trump under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate. According to the Congressional Research Service, "nominations that are pending when the Senate adjourns sine die or recesses for more than 30 days are returned to the President unless the Senate, by unanimous consent, waives the rule requiring their return. If a nomination is returned, and the President still desires Senate consideration, he must submit a new nomination to the Senate". Menendez has described his opposition to the nomination of Desmond as well as his earlier opposition to the confirmation of current IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig as a protest against the agency's proposed regs, pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA; P.L. 115-97, 12/22/2017), that would prevent states from declaring certain state and local tax payments as charitable contributions. For the return of the nomination to the President, see here

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sex and Tax (Including the Tax Division) in the Movies (1/7/18; 1/19/19)

Many readers will already know that there is a new movie,  On the Basis of Sex (Wikipedia page here), which revolves around a tax case involving a constitutional issue on gender discrimination in the tax law in a case pitting Ruth Bader Ginsburg (yes, the notorious one, often referred to as RBG) and her husband Marty Ginsburg against the Tax Division.  (Sorry to disappoint, but it is not that kind of sex, although the confluence of sex and tax is usually an oxymoron but surely an attention grabber.)   RBG needs no introduction and, I suspect, neither does Marty who was, in my mind, the smartest tax lawyer around.  I have several Marty stories, but none related to the Tax Division Alumni.

The tax case was Moritz v. Commissioner, 469 F.2d 466 (10th Cir. 1972), here, cert. denied, 412 U.S. 906 (1973).  According to the movie portrayal, the principal actors from DOJ were:  Jim Bozarth, (Appellate Section line attorney now in private practice, here), Ernest J. Brown (Appellate Section reviewer and former tax professor at Harvard Law School, now deceased), and Erwin Griswold (Solicitor General and former tax professor and Dean at Harvard Law School, now deceased).  The movie does not include the SG tax assistant, Richard Stone, who would likely have been a principal player in the real drama.

Those who worked in the Appellate Section (like me, there at the time) may see some liberties taken in the movie (like the absence of the SG tax assistant who would have pulled the laboring oar in the SG's office, although my experience was that SG Griswold did take special interest in tax cases and would have done so in authorizing the petition for cert).  Whether the SG was materially involved prior to the Tenth Circuit decision seems unlikely.

I do have a friend, Peter Reilly, a tax blogger at Forbes, here, who has tried to gather information about the portrayals in the movie.  He has discussed the movie with me; to date those discussions with Peter were before I saw the movie.  I could then just talk about the working of the Appellate Section and the players involved, including the missing SG tax assistant (Richard Stone) and others.  Most significantly, Peter talked with Jim Bozarth.  As of this writing, Peter has written three blog entries on his sleuthing about the movie, including comments from the screenwriter, Daniel Stiepleman.  I list those current blog entries (updated) below, but urge readers interested in the topic to check back with Peter's blog because there will be later blog entries.  These are presented in chronological order.
  • "On The Basis Of Sex" - What To Read Before You Watch (Forbes Peter Reilly 12/28/18), here.
  • On The Basis Of Sex: How A Tax Case Became A Victory For Gender Equity (Forbes Peter Reilly 12/31/18), here.
  • On The Basis Of Sex: Portrayal Of Opposing Attorney Has No Basis In Reality (Forbes Peter Reilly 1/4/19), here.
  • On The Basis Of Sex - Watch The Other Lawyers (Forbes Peter Reilly 1/13/19), here.  (This is the most focused presentation on the DOJ Tax Appellate lawyers (Brown and Bozarth) and the Solicitor General.
Also, the TaxProfBlog re-posted Peter's first offering here.  Apparently given its very wide readership the TaxProfBlog got some great comments for the article, so I strongly recommend clicking on the Tax Prof Blog link and reading the comments.  Here is my favorite, although not about DOJ Tax lawyers:
My wife and I saw the movie at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The movie is a sweet love story, about a tax issue. We both liked the movie. I thought it was lovely. Just about a nice, married couple, and taxation. Who could ask for anything more?
Having now seen the movie, I will say that much of the presentation about the interactions of and with the DOJ Tax lawyers (Brown and Bozarth) did not strike me as what would have really happened.  Some  of Peter Reilly's blogs linked above get into that.  But, I don't think that they are so far off (except in one respect that I will note) that they take away from the overall movie or the zeal with which the DOJ Tax lawyers presented the case.

My only complaint is that they presented the Tenth Circuit argument almost as if it were a jury trial.  My experience with DOJ Tax Appellate is that the attorneys avoided the drama at oral argument (it is a tax case, after all).  The movie had, for example, Bozarth turning from the judges to look at the taxpayer (Moritiz) and the opposing lawyers (the Ginsburgs), and even casting an aspersion that the Ginsburgs promoted the case for reasons other than the client's interest.  I would be stunned if Bozarth did that (he is too class a lawyer for that) and am disappointed that the makers of the movie felt it appropriate to put that fictional (in my view) event in the movie.

I would appreciate comments from DOJ Tax Alumni.  Please make them below or send them to me at jack@tjtaxlaw.com.  Any information, anecdotes, etc., sent to me will not be published or shared with anyone else (including Peter Reilly without express permission).  One thing I am particularly interested in is who the SG tax assistant was (I may know that later today when a document package is delivered to Peter Reilly) and whether, if the SG tax assistant is still alive, how he might be contacted.

Also, those having difficulty posting comments (some do), please email the comments to me with a request to post the comment and I will take care of posting them.