Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sad News in the Tax World

I was doing some research on a Ninth Circuit case (more on that in a future post) and I saw an announcement on the Ninth Circuit's website that Judge Joseph Sneed passed away on February 9th.

Judge Sneed was on the Ninth Circuit for almost 35 years, but before that he was a well respected (and brilliant) tax academic. He taught at Texas, Stanford, Cornell and was dean at Duke for 2 years. In the announcement, it is noted that he was offered a job as an assistant professor at Texas upon graduation from the law school there.

One of my favorite cases, Olk, that I cover in the basic tax course was written by Judge Sneed. It involved the issue of whether tips, called tokes, paid over to crap dealers should be included in the dealer's income. The case gets the right result (it clearly is income) but, on account of attempting to reconcile an earlier Supreme Court case on the definition of gifts, does so with some very questionable reasoning. In his defense, it is likely that Judge Sneed thought the Supreme Court would grant certiorari in the case and clarify the law. Instead, the Supreme Court passed and thus I have the students read Judge Sneed's opinion.

Unfortunately, I never met Judge Sneed, but I wish I had and I am sorry to hear the news of his passing.

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