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TAX BAR BULLETIN: Volume 37, No.1

Current Items:                                                             

  1. When the Client is Insane
  2. Processed vs Fake
  3. Dawson Who?
  4. CIS-IRS

1). If you practice law long enough you are bound to come into contact with a client who is not just quirky or eccentric but the one who appears to be insane. In the course of my 45 years I can recall several. They will remain nameless but they all shared characteristics that gave them away to a mere lawyer such as myself whose only credential was Psychology 101 on the Banks of the Raritan. From the initial consultation the insane client fidgets in his seat, eyes flashing left and right when he speaks. While you are attempting to take copious notes you realize that his ideas are often incoherent. Emotional outbursts are commonplace as well as the use of foul language and pejoratives. He will often lapse into what appears to be an attempt to get you on his side. That attempt at friendliness flickers on and off with unprovoked periods of rage. Asking any questions about the story he is weaving results in explosive behavior. Perhaps one of the biggest giveaways is the client who pushes his chair back stands at your conference table and gesticulates wildly. Declarations of being the victim of fraud and that people named or otherwise are out to get him are commonplace. In a matter of minutes the insane client seems to recompose himself and you begin to wonder whether it is you who is misjudging what you have just observed. Let me tell you from experience. It isn’t you. What to do next? Often the matter resolves itself as the insane client has no real intention of hiring an attorney nor does he have any real facts upon which a claim could be prosecuted. Younger lawyers perhaps in need of funds to pay the rent may think that this client will in the future behave himself. It is for them that I warn of pending disaster. I know of no code of conduct that requires we lawyers to represent persons who appear to be deranged and perhaps dangerous. Now to get to the real point. What we all have been witnessing in the last few months and in particular the events of January 6, 2021 is what can occur when a President of the United States is insane. I am sorry to insult those plain-wool-coat Republicans of the Pat and Richard Nixon variety but I will say this. If Donald Trump had come to my office for a consultation I would not have represented him. I would have concluded that his mental state required services of a health based professional and not of the legal variety. Some time ago I wrote of a PSAT test to be administered to all candidates for such high public office: Presidential Sanity Aptitude Test. The American people can judge on their own whether or not a candidate is smart or just plain stupid, but a professional analysis of the mental state should be made by those that are better equipped. The disarray that the law finds itself could possibly be avoided. I have been asked to write an article about future tax law changes. I will one day when our ship of state is once more on an even keel. Until that time your guess is as good as mine. Remembering I am speaking to my legal colleagues, please forgive the “insane” classification. Those who spend their lives in such an area can perhaps more correctly categorize the symptoms. I just know it when I see it.

2) My dear mother, God rest her soul, never really understood what her son did for a living other than I was in fact a lawyer. When she asked whether or not I handled real estate closings or accident cases and other normal things I had to tell her no and that I represented people with tax problems. “Ma, I’m a storyteller,” I would say. So what is it we lawyers really do? It dawned on me that our chief responsibility is to “process” facts. These are not the stories told us by clients but rather the result of taking those raw facts and making some sense of them so that courts and our legal freres can understand them effectively. Arguing for the best view of the facts is what lawyering is all about, say I. However when lawyers stoop to creating facts from thin air the public reaction is understandable. We as a profession are disparaged, scorned and distrusted. More damage to our profession has occurred in the last few months than perhaps the last 200 years. Lawyers in the national spotlight have had no trouble conniving with their clients believing impossible stories and promulgating them as facts spoken with authority from one who possesses a law license. I resent this personally and question the conduct of lawyers so employed. In some egregious cases it may be grounds for the appropriate legal committees to take action for suspension or disbarment of these persons in their respective states. Rotten apples can ruin the whole barrel, the farmers rightfully say.

3) I received an email the other day from the United States Tax Court. At least that is what it appeared to be. Needless to stay say I was moments away from deleting it, but realized the use of the magic word “Dawson” who I recalled as the Clerk of the United States Tax Court when I was admitted in 1974. For those who are admitted to the United States Tax Court the email sets out instructions in order to get your electronic username and password to access cases you have pending. This is a required action on your part and is in no way a false email seeking personal or financial information like the other dozen or so we get every day.

4) The Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation division releases an annual report of its activities. The report which can be found at the IRS website identifies $2.3 billion in tax fraud. The report is interactive summarizing a variety of the agency’s activity with examples from field offices on a wide range of financial crimes. In lieu of a good book, it makes interesting reading.