Tax Clinic: Making Peace with the IRS
Many Virginians are heaving a sigh of relief after getting tax returns done and in the mail, but for some the challenge of paying taxes as just begun.
They’re the ones who get notices from the IRS. At the very least, that’s an annoyance, and for some it’s a nightmare, but free help could be a phone call away.
Every state has at least one federally-funded office to help people having trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. In Virginia there are two: the Community Tax Law Project in Richmond and the Tax Clinic at Washington and Lee’s School of Law.
The clinic provides services at no charge to anyone who qualifies.
To hear WVTF’s report on the clinic, click here.
W&L Law Professor A. Benjamin Spencer just published an article entitled Class Actions, Heightened Commonality, and Declining Access to Justice in the Boston University Law Review. Here is the abstract:
A prerequisite to being certified as a class under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is that there are “questions of law or fact common to the class.” Although this “commonality” requirement had heretofore been regarded as something that was easily satisfied, in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes the Supreme Court gave the requirement new vitality by reading into it an obligation to identify among the class a common injury and common questions that are “central” to the dispute. Not only is such a reading of Rule 23’ s commonality requirement unsupported by the text of the rule, but it also is at odds with the historical understanding of commonality in both the class action and joinder contexts. The Court’s articulation of a heightened commonality standard can be explained by a combination of its negative view of the merits of the discrimination claims at issue in Dukes, the conflation of the predominance requirement with commonality, and the Court’s apparent penchant for favoring restrictive interpretations of procedural rules that otherwise promote access. Although an unfortunate consequence of the Dukes Court’s heightening of the commonality standard will be the enlivening of challenges to class certifications that would otherwise never have been imagined, this Article urges the Court to reject heightened commonality and read Rule 23 in a manner that remains true to the language and history of the common question requirement.
This article may be downloaded by visiting the BU Law Review website.
Professor Joshua Fairfield to Present His Work at Stanford-Peking University Conference on Internet Law and Policy
Washington and Lee law professor Joshua Fairfield will present his work on virtual currency and virtual property, as part of a panel discussing Virtual Items, at the Second Stanford-Peking University Conference on Internet Law and Policy 2013 hosted by Stanford Law School on May 3d and 4th (registration link: http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/ilpp2013/).
The conference is co-sponsored by Stanford Law School and Peking University, and draws together internationally-recognized scholars from the United States, China, and across the world. The conference addresses issues of cutting edge intellectual property and e-commercial law, including the growing trade in virtual items and currency.
Professor Fairfield’s work, entitled “Virtual Gravity,” will address the emergence of virtual items, virtual currencies, and microtransactions as a major means of financing internet services. For example, the virtual currency BitCoin has recently risen to prominence as parties seeking to shield money from the Cypriot banking crisis invest in the online money. Professor Fairfield’s research explores the differences between Europe, the United States, and China in addressing the rise of virtual items. It also explores the gravitational pull that the technology of digital objects exerts on the form and shape of the law.
Professor Timothy Lubin, Lecturer in Religion and Law and Professor of Religion at Washington & Lee University, recently posted an article on SSRN entitled Legal Diglossia: Modeling Discursive Practices in Premodern Indic Law. Here is the abstract:
This article proposes to analyze the socio-linguistic practices documented in inscriptions from South and Southeast Asia between the fourth and sixteenth centuries as a type of “functional diglossia” characteristic of legal discourse in states influenced by the transregional Dharmaśāstra tradition in Sanskrit. This diglossia can take two forms. Sanskrit itself may be used as an acrolect, either alone or in bilingual records, where it has primarily expressive or ceremonial functions. But the focus in this article is on the other form: the use of a highly Sanskritized, formal and formulaic register of the local vernaculars. Starting with some observations about the impact of Sanskrit legal discourse on Old Khmer and Old Javanese legal records, comparable inscriptions in Old Tamil are examined in detail, noting the influence of first Prakrit and then Sanskrit on legal idiom. It is concluded that use of this Sanskritized register reflects not simply the prestige of Brahmanical high culture but also the perceived value and utility of an imported specialized conceptual system of law and administration. This study further suggests that the introduction of written legal documentation, simultaneous with the spread of Brahmanical legal ideas, led in turn to the formal recognition of local customary norms as law, in keeping with the Dharmaśāstric principle that customary norms constitute Dharma.
This article may be downloaded by visiting http://ssrn.com/abstract=1720704. Prof. Lubin specializes in Sanskrit religious and legal literature and Hinduism, and teaches courses in the College on Asian traditions, the comparative study of religion, and Sanskrit. In the Law School, he teaches fall seminars on “Law and Religion” and “Hindu Law in Theory and Practice.” His research deals with Indic legal traditions and Brahmanical Hindu ritual codes, the connections between them, and their reception in modern India.
Washington and Lee law professor Lyman Johnson was recently elected Chair of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Agency, Partnerships, and LLCs. The Section focuses exclusively on noncorporate business associations. In recent years, limited liability companies(LLCs) have emerged as far and away the most popular form of business entity for start-up ventures, far surpassing the formation of corporations.
Every year the Section focuses on a timely topic of interest to scholars working in this area. This January the Section featured a tribute to the scholarship of Larry Ribstein, a prolific scholar from the University of Illinois who did pioneering work in the area of partnerships and LLCs and who died suddenly at the end of 2011. Prof. Johnson provided a comment on a paper delivered at that session. As Chair, Johnson says his hope is to raise even further the profile of this important section and to explore connections with other AALS sections. He will also seek to reach out to members of the practicing bar and the judiciary who are grappling with issues in this area.
Prof. Johnson is also a founding Executive Committee member of the new AALS section on Transactional Law and Skills. This section focuses on teaching students the substantive knowledge, skills, and tasks required to become transactional lawyers, such as those who work in law firm Financial Services or Corporate Acquisitions groups.
Washington and Lee Law Professor Mark Drumbl, directory of the Transnational Law Institute, will speak at Emory Law School on Monday, Feb. 28 in a new lecture series focused on war and peace. From www,globalatlanta.com:
“The Project on War and Security in Law, Culture, and Society at Emory University will explore the impact of war by studying “peace” through papers outside the traditional boundaries of war involving occupation, post-conflict, violent governance outside of interstate warfare, and the question of whether contemporary warfare facilitates or eviscerates the possibility of peace. The first workshop in this series will be on the issue of child soldiers in international law and policy.”
Prof. Drumbl will discuss his most recent book, Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy (Oxford University Press, 2012). The book offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary analysis of child soldiering worldwide and presses the international community to rethink its approaches to the problem. Prof. Drumbl’s analysis reveals that the phenomenon of child soldiering is largely oversimplified and that international humanitarian and criminal justice systems must evolve in order to offer adequate responses. Read more about the book here.
Nora Demleitner, Dean of Washington and Lee University School of Law, is serving as a consultant to the Vera Institute of Justice (NYC) in its European-American Prison Project. The project is funded by the Prison Law Office in California, which has been the chief litigant in California’s prison health care case, a federal class action civil rights lawsuit alleging that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) medical services were inadequate and violated the Eighth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As a result of the case, the CDCR’s prison medical conditions were found to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
As a result of that victory, the Prison Law Office received state funds, which it has been investing with Vera to bring about larger scale prison reform.Vera has selected three progressive correctional systems — Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Colorado — to send delegations to Germany and the Netherlands to learn about how the sentencing and correctional systems there are being run.
Dean Demleitner is serving as the European sentencing expert on the Vera team. She recently visited two prisons in Georgia as part of a two-day working group meeting, which consisted of correctional officials, including the commissioner of corrections, state representatives, judges, prosecutors, and other experts. Next week she will visit Colorado for another working group meeting.
Dean Demleitner joined W&L Law in 2012. She teaches and has written widely in the areas of criminal, comparative, and immigration law. Her special expertise is in sentencing and collateral sentencing consequences.
W&L Law Professor A. Benjamin Spencer, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center, has just published an article entitled The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective, 69 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1949 (2012). This article provides an extensive review of the history of legal education and legal education reform up to the present day, gleaning lessons along the way for how we might address contemporary challenges facing law schools. Here is the abstract:
Contemporary critiques of legal education abound. This arises from what can be described as a perfect storm: the confluence of softness in the legal employment market, the skyrocketing costs of law school, and the unwillingness of clients and law firms to continue subsidizing the further training of lawyers who failed to learn how to practice in law school. As legal jobs become increasingly scarce and salaries stagnate, the value proposition of law school is rightly being questioned from all directions. Although numerous valid criticisms have been put forth, some seem to be untethered from a full appreciation for how the current model of legal education developed. Indeed, a historical perspective on legal education is sorely missing from this debate, as many of the criticisms merely echo charges that have been lodged against legal education for well over a century, but do not draw lessons from how those former critiques ultimately failed to deliver fundamental change. This Article reviews the historical development of legal education in America, including the critiques and reforms made along the way, to gain insight that will inform our own efforts to make law schools better at preparing lawyers for practice.
This article, which was published in the Washington & Lee Law Review, may be downloaded from SSRN by visiting http://ssrn.com/abstract=2017114.
The University of Sydney in Australia is hosting a conference entitled The Scope and Limits of Religious Freedom in Australia. W&L Law Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson is the featured guest speaker. Check out the conference announcement here, which provides additional details. It will be held on Thursday, March 15, 2013.
Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson is the Class of 1958 Law Alumni Professor of Law. A specialist in Family Law and Health Law, her research and teaching interests also include Insurance and Biomedical Ethics. Professor Wilson is the editor of four volumes: Health Law and Bioethics: Cases in Context (with Sandra Johnson, Joan Krause and Richard Savor, 2009); Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008) (with Douglas Laycock and Anthony A. Picarello);Reconceiving the Family: Critique on the American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and the Handbook of Children, Culture & Violence(Sage Publications, 2006) (with Nancy Dowd & Dorothy G. Singer). Her articles have appeared in the Cornell Law Review, theEmory Law Journal, the North Carolina Law Review, and the San Diego Law Review, as well as in numerous peer-reviewed journals.
On Thursday, November 29, W&L Law Professor Susan Franck made two presentations entitled Tracking Trends in Investment Disputes: The New Data.
The first presentation was to the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, which is the leading institution for the resolution of investment treaty disputes.
The second presentation was a joint presentation to the United States Department of State’s Office of the Legal Advisor and the United States Trade Representative. The previous generation of research was used by the U.S. Department of State Report of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy Regarding the Model Bilateral Investment Treaty in generating the 2012 U.S. Model BIT.
Here is the abstract of both presentations:
Despite the global economic crisis, international investment is on the rise and the number of investment treaties, which contain ex ante agreements requiring states to arbitrate alleged treaty violations, continues to increase. The convergence of these factors means that approximately 68% of foreign investment, approximately US$13 trillion, is now protected by at least one international investment agreement (IIA) and subject to arbitration. As disputes follow investment and the related legal rights, it is no surprise that investors have exercised their legal options. Yet there has been dissatisfaction with ITA, and some make assertions about systemic integrity with little (or no) data to back up their claims. This presentation will provide an antidote by exploring the current status of ITA by offering an empirical assessment of data that is current to 2012. It will focus on key elements including the institutional actors (investors, states and non-disputing parties), institutions involved, the lawyers pursuing claims, the amounts investors claimed, outcomes, time required to secure outcomes, and the fiscal costs of pursuing ITA. The objective of the presentation is to provide information to promote a lively and informed policy debate about the future of international investment law and dispute resolution.
Data related to this material is forthcoming in Professor Franck’s book with Oxford University Press: Investment Treaty Arbitration: Myths, Realities and Costs.