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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tax Profs Remember Jim Eustice

Eustice Following up on last week's post on the death of legendary Tax Prof James S. Eustice, Gerald L. Wallace Professor of Taxation Emeritus at NYU: Jim's memorial service will be held Monday, May 9, at 2:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Metropolitan Jewish Health System Foundation Hospice. Below the fold are remembrances of Jim from these Tax Profs:
  • Joshua Blank (NYU)
  • Fred Brown (Baltimore)
  • Paul Caron (Cincinnati)
  • Lesse Castleberry (Cooley, New York)
  • Noël Cunningham (NYU)
  • Carr Ferguson (Davis Polk & Wardwell, New York; Adjunct Professor, NYU & San Diego))
  • Albert Golbert (Los Angeles tax lawyer and former adjunct professor)
  • Cynthia LePow (Loyola-New Orleans)
  • Jim Maule (Villanova)
  • Guy B. Maxfield (NYU)
  • Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)
  • Robert Peroni (Texas)
  • Deborah Schenk (NYU)
  • Len Schmolka (NYU)
  • Dan Shaviro (NYU)
  • Karla Simon (Catholic)
  • John Steines (NYU)

Joshua D. Blank, Associate Professor of the Practice of Tax Law and Faculty Director of the Graduate Tax Program, New York University School of Law

Jim was a brilliant, hardworking and kind colleague.  Each evening around 6:00 PM, on his way to many hours of updating his famous treatise, Jim would stop at my office door – wearing his tracksuit and ‘NYU Tax’ hat and carrying his trademark pipe – to say hello and, often, share some tax-related humor.  The fourth floor of Vanderbilt Hall at NYU will never be the same without him.

Fred B. BrownAssociate Professor of Law and Director of the Graduate Tax Program, University of Baltimore School of Law

From my days as an acting assistant professor at NYU, I remember Jim as having uncanny knowledge of the tax law, especially corporate and international tax, and caring deeply that his students were understanding the material. He was always very helpful and kind. My office was right next to his, and I would see him there spending countless hours working on his masterpiece, the B&E corporate tax treatise. He was also a great marathoner, running the NYC marathon many, many times.

Paul L. Caron, Charles Hartsock Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Although I never met Jim Eustice, his treatise literally got me through my corporate tax class in law school. I remember being in awe of the book, wondering how in the world Jim and Boris were able to develop such a mastery of the inticacies of the Code. My appreciation of the book has only deepened through the years.

Lesse Castleberry (Cooley, New York):

When I was a student at NYU many years ago, I took a course in corporate reorgs from James Eustice the legend.  He gave my fellow students and me the ultimate compliment – and challenge – by assuming that we could work out the basics on our own.  Jim’s comments focused on the notes (footnotes and pedagogical

James Eustice the legend subsequently became my friend and colleague for almost 40 years.  He was generous, gracious and loyal in both capacities.  After he retired from full-time teaching, I inherited one of his courses, Affiliated Corporations.  I used the problems for the course that Jim had developed.  That is when I learned firsthand what it is like to traverse his tax minefields from the podium side of the classroom.

Two years ago Jim told me that he missed teaching.  I was thrilled and honored when he agreed to return to the classroom to co-teach with me. 
I was touched when one of Jim’s first messages to friends and colleagues after he became ill last month was to me.  He felt that he had let me down because he was unable to continue with our course.  Much as I assured him that I could carry on until he was able to return, each time I saw him, he assured me that he expected to be back in class the next week.  I am so sorry that was not to be. 

Noël Cunningham, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

I feel a sense of great loss, both professionally and personally. Jim was a true giant in the field of federal taxation and will be sorely missed. In addition, he was not only my teacher and colleague, but also my very good friend.

M. Carr FergusonSenior Counsel, Davis Polk & Wardwell, New York; Adjunct Professor, NYU & San Diego)

Marian and I met Jim and Vaunnie Eustice at the Old Greenwich home of Jerry and Opal Wallace in the summer of 1961, while we were teaching for the first time in Jerry's graduate Tax Program at NYU. Jim and I had been his students in separate years in the late fifties and became, from that day, fast friends for life. Jim's appearance was not all Vaunnie would have hoped that day. He had been doing a Gene Kelly dance along rainy MacDougal the night before as the two of them came back late from a party. At one point, he'd failed to clear a parking meter and sported an impressive black eye, which attracted us to him immediately. Here was a man of dash and unpredictability. And also, thankfully, imperfection. Later that summer, after classes had ended, NYU held a two-week seminar for young tax law teachers, inviting Jim and me, along with some other beginners, to hear the mysteries of tax teaching revealed by Jerry Wallace, Charlie Lyon, Boris Bittker (a student of Jerry's at Yale) and Ernest Brown. Boris quickly perceived that in Jim he had found the perfect co-author for his text on corporate law, which had only recently been turned from mimeographed lecture notes into a bound volume. If for no other reason, that seminar was a turning point in Jim's life. His commitment to the book never was steadfast, coffee fueled but not tireless. Successive editions and constant supplements narrowed his life and drained him at times. Its discipline honed him as a scholar and built within him a truly encyclopedic knowledge of the tax law. Anyone who has ever seen a copy of new revenue ruling or tax decision read by Jim has seen pages covered by his underlining, marginalia written in his crabbed hand, and words circled mysteriously. His writing, was copious in coverage yet terse. Just under it bubbled the wit of a truly learned, clever man. He could be devastating, as in a short analysis of an technical amendment to Section 361, designed to correct certain flaws in its application to corporate transfers in reorganizations. In two printed pages of innocent questions, he revealed for us the truly horrible mistakes piled by its legislative draftsmen on top of its existing complexities. He was equally dedicated to his teaching. He secluded himself in his office for hours before each class, however often he had taught the subject, reviewing notes which he regularly updated. By the class hour, he was full to the brim with information to convey and thoughts of how it was to be done. We tried team teaching once or twice, but there so few interstices in his presentations that another's presence in the room was only interruptive.

He was generous and supportive as a colleague, encouraging others with our own research and writing, full of ideas and suggested sources. During our salad days as the younger colleagues of Jerry and Charlie, a daily privilege we shared was lunch with them at Marta's restaurant on Washington Place, where Bobby kept a copy of the Code behind the bar for us and Gene had our table waiting after morning classes. We knew advance sheets and tax news had to be mentally consumed before we took our two sides of the table, for one of us would be reflecting on something in them as often as not. The pleasures of each other's company, the jokes, the examinations of "the book" brought over by Bobby were high joy, indeed. We partied together, worshipped together, were part of the same generation of faculty families at NYU which grew up together and propped each other up during life's inevitable potholes. There was a competitive side to Jim, which showed in his running and his pride in the success of our tax program, but it never invaded our friendship which, through all his years of glory and frustrations was deep and abiding. It still is.

Albert Golbert, Los Angeles tax lawyer and former adjunct professor

Jim Eustice addressed the State Bar of California Tax Section shortly after the passage of the 1986 Act during which he recalled for us his own testimony before Congress.  When asked by the chairman what he thought of the new Act, he replied (as nearly as I can recall): "Unlike my brethren at the Bar who are obliged to practice tax law, I had the time to study the new Act, but, like many of my practicing tax colleagues, I'm getting too old to learn any more."

In addition to bringing down the house, that comment pretty well summed up the feelings of many of us initially daunted by the heft and weight of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

Cynthia LePow, Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

We have lost a light. Jim Eustice was a brilliant analyst, a graceful writer who never wasted words, a natural actor, golfer, marathon runner and a good sport. Please clink here to see a short clip of Jim Eustice in 1989.

Jame Maule, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law

The name “Jim Eustice” came into my tax lexicon while I was a J.D. student. My tax professor spoke the name “Jim Eustice” and described his tax law analyses as though he was referring to a supernatural being worthy of total and unquestioned respect. Not long thereafter I learned that Jim Eustice was co-author of “the” treatise on Corporate Income Taxation. Shortly thereafter, when I entered practice and met colleagues who were former students of Jim Eustice, I discovered that they, too, considered him as some sort of tax superhero. It wasn’t long before I had an opportunity to experience first-hand the reasons so many people held him in awe.

Shortly after I arrived at the United States Tax Court as attorney-advisor to the Hon. Herbert L. Chabot, word circulated among the attorney-advisors that there was going to be a hearing on a motion in a case involving the reorganization provisions of the Code. The buzz, though, was that Jim Eustice was going to argue. Among his former students, the atmosphere resembled that which would exist if a well-known celebrity or perhaps the President were coming to visit the Tax Court. If I recall correctly, the case was on Judge Tannenwald’s docket, and the hearing was scheduled for the main courtroom in the Court’s Washington, D.C. building. The advice from the more senior attorney-advisors was that it behooved all of us to seek permission from our respective judges to sit in on the hearing. Permission was granted pretty much universally.

When I arrived in the courtroom, it was filled, which usually happened only for ceremonial events, such as the swearing-in of a new judge. I had made certain to read enough about the case to follow the arguments. Jim Eustice began, on behalf of the taxpayers. Listening to him argue, and being questioned by Judge Tannenwald, was spell-binding. Here were two seasoned veterans of the corporate tax practice world, one now a judge, examining almost every word and punctuation mark in section 368 with intense and precise attention. No matter what sort of question Judge Tannenwald put to him, Jim Eustice handled it expertly and confidently. Then it was time for respondent’s counsel to step to the podium. Not one of us wished to be in his shoes. I now had seen why people spoke of Jim Eustice with reverence. (The case was Reeves v. Comr., 71 T.C. 727 (1979)).

Jim Eustice was one of those rare individuals who established during lifetime and leaves behind as his legacy the sort of reputation to which many seek but few attain. His name and the phrase “corporate tax” are almost synonymous. No matter who succeeds as revising author of the two treatises to which he contributed so much, I doubt anyone will ever have the temerity to remove his name from the cover. I am convinced that even if the corporate income tax is repealed, Jim Eustice’s reign as “all things corporate tax” will continue. As it ought.

Guy B. Maxfield, Professor of Law Emeritus, UCLA

Jim was, no doubt, best known as a corporate tax scholar and practitioner.  Those of us who were colleagues of Jim at New York University School of Law for the past 40 years or so know of many other attributes of Jim beyond corporate tax. 

For example, one afternoon in 1964 Jack Freeland, another tax scholar, and I were working on the new retirement income credit.  After about a half an hour, Jim walked by and inquired what we were doing.  For the next 3 hours or so the three of us talked, used a blackboard and set up hypotheticals to understand the obtuse mechanics of the credit.  At the end Jim, said, “Well, we now know more about something than any of us will ever use in our teaching or in practice.”

Katherine Pratt, Professor of Law, Loyola Los Angeles Law School

(Jim Eustice supervised a directed research paper that I wrote as a Tax LLM student at NYU. Also, we were colleagues in my first two years of teaching.)

All business tax lawyers are aware of the legendary technical precision with which Jim Eustice wrote about corporate tax law, but fewer tax lawyers know that Jim also had a wicked sense of humor.  When I was a Tax LLM student at NYU, I remarked to Jim that one of my fellow students was sure that she had just failed Jim’s 6-question Corporate Tax exam. Jim asked me why she thought that. I told Jim that my dejected friend had sobbed: “I don’t know what happened to me. ALL of the questions on the exam seemed like 304 questions. Everywhere I looked I saw 304. I found myself writing about 304 over and over again…. It was like Groundhog Day. I can’t believe I just failed Corporate Tax.” Jim’s eyes twinkled as he set his pipe down on his desk and replied “sounds to ME like she got an A!”

Jim’s knowledge of tax law was encyclopedic. When I think about Jim, I picture him in his NYU fourth floor office, at his desk, unlit pipe appended to his mouth, noting his meticulous yet insightful observations about corporate tax in microscopic script on a seemingly endless supply of yellow legal pads.

When Jim and NYU tax colleagues met after hours at a restaurant near NYU, they didn’t need to carry a copy of the IRC with them to resolve their technical tax disputes, because they kept a copy of the IRC behind the bar at the restaurant.

I once asked Jim why we have to worry about COD income in a recapitalization that is a tax-free reorganization.  Without consulting any written materials, Jim provided a cryptic yet precise answer -- the NUMBER of the footnote (just the footnote number, with no other explanation) in which he had posed and answered the question in the Bittker & Eustice treatise.

Robert J. Peroni, Fondren Foundation Centennial Chair for Faculty Excellence, University of Texas School of Law

I was very sad to learn of Jim Eustice’s passing.  He was a wonderful mentor and friend and helped me considerably when I decided that I wanted to become a law teacher.  His treatise on corporate tax is still one of the top tax law treatises and the “bible” on corporate taxation.  He was a fascinating scholar and teacher, who made even subjects like affiliated corporations, Section 304 redemptions, and net operating loss carryovers interesting.  And, of course, he was one of the true giants of the tax law field, who helped build NYU’s excellent LL.M. in Taxation program into the preeminent program it remains today.  He will be sorely missed by the tax law community and NYU.  I extend my deepest condolences to his family.

Deborah H. Schenk, Marilynn & Ronald Grossman Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

Being Jim Eustice's colleague was a joy.  Some of those teaching corporate tax who have questions use the library, the internet, or treatises and hornbooks.  I had the real McCoy.  Occasionally I would conjure up a corporate tax question that I could not answer by studying B&E.  I would research the answer by writing a memo to Jim, usually laying out a fact pattern and outlining what little authority I had found.  I would slip it under Jim's door (Jim being one of the last people in America to shun computers and daylight working hours).  In the morning I would find the paper under my door.  Heavily annotated, Jim would have pointed out some twists to my fact pattern, commented on the authorities, given me an answer, and explained why it was a crazy or sane result.  Rarely he would say that he did not know the answer, which was the same thing as saying there was no answer.  Two evenings later Jim would stop by in his track suit and well-worn running shoes with a pipe gripped between his teetch (I have no recollection of ever seeing the man in a tie).  He would always say "I hope my musings were a little help" (no kidding) and then add that he had some further thoughts.  And he would proceed to give me an impromptu lesson on the subject.  That would followed by complaints about the state of the tax world, the state of the academy, and the state of his health.  Oh--and the most interesting obits in the Times that day, a page of the paper we both found as interesting and as fun to dissect as 368(a)(2)(G).

Len Schmolka, Professor of Law, New York University

I joined the NYU tax faculty 30 years ago.  From my first day, Jim was my mentor, my model, an ever-ready resource, frequent dinner companion and a good friend.  No one will be able to fill his strangely empty corner office.

Daniel N. Shaviro, Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation, New York University School of Law

Jim Eustice was a great scholar and a great man, and I was honored to be his colleague for the last 16 years.

John Steines, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

To me, Jim broke the mold in tax academe, along the lines Larry Bird did in basketball--different, even peculiar, stubborn, relentlessly independent, dignified but occasionally fond of zany adventure, quietly friendly, kind-hearted, devilishly funny to those he knew well, extremely bright and hard-working, committed to professional excellence, loyal, and ultimately, with self-knowledge but not arrogance, in a class very few could join. Underneath the seemingly shy, stolid exterior was an always churning, even introspective mind.  He surprised me on the occasion of our last visit by sharing, in very un-Jim style, some thoughts on his life.  I will miss him.

Karla W. Simon,Professor of Law and Director of Faculty Development, Columbus School of Law,
Catholic University of America

Jim was a wonderful mentor and a good friend.  

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Comments

Thanks so much for posting these testimonials for Professor Eustice. I enjoyed him in class and at social events when I was priviledged enough to hang around Vanderbuilt Hall and run around Washington Square a couple decades ago. His crab-style of running made me laugh, but not as much as his wry, yet gentle sense of humor. The Professor's Professor.

Posted by: Charlie Lorensen | May 7, 2011 2:31:17 PM