Former Judge John F. Dean

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Distinguished Judicial Educator: The Honorable Judge John F. Dean 

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Former Special Trial Judge on the United States Tax Court Prepares Tax Litigators 
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When John Dean finished law school at Washington DC's Catholic University, he headed to Georgetown Law Center at Georgetown University to pursue a master's of law degree in taxation. So, in 1975, after passing the bar, he found himself engaged as a freshman government attorney representing the IRS as a deputy district counsel. His first cases landed him in the courtrooms of the United States Tax Court, defending the Commissioner against prosecutions brought by taxpayers who challenged determinations made by the government that alleged an individual, business, estate, trust., or corporate taxpayer had underpaid taxes on
income during a particular tax period. As the years passed, he moved from one IRS district office to another, serving in similar capacities, and always with a focus on preparing and orchestrating defenses for both domestic as well as international controversies. Along the way, he acquired a breath of knowledge pertaining to rules and procedural applications, litigation strategies, and trial practice.

In 1994, John Dean was appointed by President Clinton to the bench on the U.S. Tax Court as a special trial judge. For the next twenty years, Judge Dean presided over numerous cases throughout the national jurisdiction while a member of a "traveling court" that went from city to city, wherever the Tax Court held sessions. His rulings and decisions can still be read at the U.S. Tax Court website Opinions Search section, if one wishes to glean just how well-versed he was as a member of the federal judiciary. 

In 2014, twenty years after he was appointed, the now distinguished, Judge Dean was honored at a celebratory retirement dinner sponsored by the Harvard Club of Washington DC. Shortly thereafter, he left the bench and joined the Tax Law Institute (TLI) as the Distinguished Judicial Speaker in Residence. In 2019, Judge Dean inspired the founding of the Tax Law Institute affiliate, U.S. Tax Court Litigators.org (USTCL) that serves attorneys who wish to develop a Federal tax litigation practice and those already engaged in the resolution of tax controversies. Later that year, Judge Dean announced that he would relinquish his speakership at TLI and move toward full retirement. But he also said that he would avail himself for occasional guest lectures. 

For the last six years, Judge Dean has led discussions at the Tax Law Institute, an IRS approved provider of continuing professional education dedicated to training federally authorized tax practitioners in Federal Tax Laws and U.S. Tax Court trial practice, litigation and appeals. While the recently established U.S. Tax Court Litigators.org, accredited by the The Florida Bar, does the same for attorneys. At TLI, Judge Dean presently offers judicial insights and instructions to primarily seasoned IRS special enrolled agents and CPAs, along with a notable enrollment of law school graduates (both JDs and LLMs) and PhDs (Accounting) as well as MDs (believe it or not) and other medical professionals who have found their way in to the tax industry. At USTCL, top legal experts, will follow the Judge Dean model of instruction for continuing legal education. They will help attorneys to understand the ever-changing complexities of Federal tax litigation, the IRC code sections, and evidence presentation as ​​​​​​​perscribed in the rules of practice and procedure that apply exclusively to the U.S. Tax Court.

Judge John Dean is unique among his judicial colleagues: He is the only former U.S. Tax Court special trial judge to ever provide hands-on oversight for nonattorney bar preparation and practice. Under Rule 200(a)(3), Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, a nonattorney applicant must satisfy the Court, by means of a written examination given by the Court and that the applicant possesses the requisite qualifications to provide competent representation before the Court. Judge Dean points out that attorneys get their legal training while attending law school. But IRS Special Enrolled Agents and CPAs engaged in Federal Tax Practice get no legal training with the exception of perhaps a course on business law. However, Judge Dean notes that in a similar regard, a law student on the way to becoming an attorney could just as well select a curriculum devoid of tax courses and still get the J.D. degree. And if they opted to take a tax course(s), most law school juris doctor programs offer just the basic courses in federal taxation and estate and gift taxation; although in all fairness, as Judge Dean reminds us, a course in estate and gift tax, if well presented, could prove to be very instructive and serve as a building block on which an ambitious law student could establish a tax practice after graduation and admission to a state bar.

Notwithstanding, Judge Dean goes on to say that the EA and CPA have the advantage over the attorney because they must study and demonstrate proficiency in taxes in order to get their approvals to practice; however, such approvals do not cover practice and representation before the Tax Court. To do so, as Rule 200(a)(3) reads, they must show competency by means of a written exam. Whereas the attorney may opt-in simply by applying and providing a certificate of good conduct and paying a small fee. And if attorneys really want to become specialized in tax matters, they can apply to and enroll in a graduate law program in taxation and earn an LL.M.degree to achieve state bar board certification in tax. Unfortunately, there is a hefty price tag attached to such programs along with a year-long commitment for full-time study away from the day-to-day practice of law - a huge financial sacrifice that not too many can afford. Further, Judge Dean tells us that at USTCL, for half the cost, attorneys, like their nonattorney counterpart EAs and CPAs at TLI, can dial-in on Saturdays and talk to top experts about how to litigate a deficiency case before the U.S. Tax Court. In just over three months of weekend instructions, these experts can help the general practitioner learn the Tax Court rules of practice and procedure, tax evidence, the required Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sections, and the ethical rules of conduct required by the Tax Court to resolve Federal tax controversies, after which they're good to launch their tax litigation practice.

The Pepperdine University TaxProf Blog reads as follows: John F. Dean has retired as special trial judge on the U.S. Tax Court.  He was the first African-American judge on the Tax Court. He was born in Washington, District of Columbia. Graduated, B.S., Michigan State University, 1970; Columbus School of Law; J.D., Catholic University of America, 1975; M.L.T., Georgetown University Law Center, 1985. Admitted to District of Columbia Bar, 1975, Supreme Court of the United States, Federal District Courts, Northern District of Texas, District of Maryland, and United States Tax Court. Employed by the Office of Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service, Dallas District Counsel, 1975-78; Baltimore District Counsel, 1978-86; Office of Associate Chief Counsel, International, 1986-94. Adjunct Professor of Law, Howard University, 1999 to present; Vice Chair, Judicial Counsel of the Washington Bar Association, 2002-03. Appointed Special Trial Judge, United States Tax Court, on August 7, 1994.

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