Retired Tax Court Judge Brings Knowledge to Non-Attorneys
In 2014, Judge John F. Dean of the United States Tax Court was honored at a celebratory dinner sponsored by the Harvard Club of Washington DC. Shortly thereafter, he retired from the bench and joined the Tax Law Institute (TLI).
John Dean was appointed to the bench as a special trial judge in 1994, during the administration of President Clinton. He presided over numerous cases as a member of a “traveling court” that went from city-to-city, wherever the Tax Court held sessions. His rulings and decisions continue to appear at the U.S. Tax Court website Opinions Search. Recently, Judge Dean announced that he would relinquish his speakership at TLI and fully retire in 2021. His legacy is unique among his judicial colleagues. He is the only former U.S. Tax Court special trial judge to oversee non-attorney preparation in the history of the court.
As the Distinguished Judicial Speaker, Judge Dean has offered insights into federal tax laws and tax court trial practice and litigation that has “opened the door” for non-attorneys to hone skills previously held only by tax lawyers. He has led virtual conferences at TLI and tax court bar reviews at Georgetown University where he spoke to IRS special enrolled agents, CPAs, law school grads and PhDs in accounting as well as MDs who have found their way in to the tax professions. These future United States tax court practitioners were instructed in preparedness, trial practice, and litigation.
His virtual lectern was shared with noted legal author and tax scholar, Professor Joni Larson. Together, they exposed USTCP candidates to the evidentiary rules as they are applied by the tax court along with courtroom procedures and Treasury regulations derived from the IRC code sections. They provided explanations as to how tax court bar examiners interpreted and scored selected answers. They also explained the judicial reasoning that would control when test-takers are faced with the classic bar exam question: How should the court rule? The ultimate goal of their efforts was to focus the soon-to-be practitioners to develop sound litigation strategies that would encourage judicial economy and responsible practice in and before the court.
And law students have other options as most J.D. programs offer basic courses in federal taxation and estate and gift tax, the completion of which would form the building blocks on which the student could establish a tax practice right after graduation and admission to a state bar. Attorneys who enter tax practice in this way may then be “admitted to practice, U.S. Tax Court” simply by applying, providing a certificate of good conduct, and paying a small fee.
But it is at this juncture that attorneys discover that they must have received specialized training in tax court rules and procedural applications, tax evidence rules and their applications, and command sufficient knowledge of the IRC code sections and their elements in order to carry out a successful practice in the tax court forum.
So, thanks to Judge Dean, TLI-trained United States Tax Court Practitioners are equally skilled as any practicing attorney in the U.S. Tax Court forum. And so, with his departure, the legacy prevails as TLI continues to conduct the only U.S. Tax Court litigation training program for non-lawyers in the country.