Paul L. Caron

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spotlight_1_1Nina J. Crimm (St. John's)

        • B.A. 1972, Washington University
        • M.B.A. 1979, Tulane
        • J.D. 1979, Tulane
        • LL.M. (Tax) 1981, Georgetown


Crimm_1 Scrabble and crossword puzzles always fascinated me. Each has interlocking parts. Scrabble requires players to construct new words upon those existing on the board. One is not sure where the word building will lead – but physical connections must be maintained. Crossword puzzles also have word connections. Artful clue phrases hint at words, and resulting words must connect in a defined grid. Each game and puzzle is entertaining; no Scrabble game unfolds exactly as another and no crossword puzzle is exactly alike. No wonder that I was playfully captivated by the artful phrases, clues, and connections of the Internal Revenue Code. When I was introduced to the Code, I believed that if I could spend my life playing its games and puzzles at work, why not?


My introduction to the Code came while I worked to pay my way concurrently through law and graduate business schools. Clerking with a law firm in New Orleans, I was assigned to a partner who concentrated on corporate matters, many of which involved tax issues. I became entranced by the fits (and perceived misfits) of the Code’s provisions and the policies behind the statutes.

Upon graduation from the J.D. and M.B.A. programs, I clerked at the U.S. Tax Court for Judge Irene F. Scott. It was a terrific experience to learn from one of the early “grand dames” of tax law and to be immersed in debate on tax law issues with other law clerks. At the end of my two year clerkship, I went into private practice in Washington, D.C., with a law firm that now no longer exists. Working long hours to ultimately make clients happy was not as satisfying as the ivory tower environment of the Tax Court, and I found that I longed to return there. I was fortunate to have that opportunity. Chief Judge Arthur L. Nims was looking for an attorney/advisor to oversee large cases, and I happily left the law firm for the Tax Court.

Approximately a year later, a former Tax Court clerk, whom I had known when I clerked for Judge Scott, called me to ask whether I’d be interested in teaching tax in the Masters of Tax program at George Washington Graduate School of Business. After interviewing, I was convinced that academia would be the perfect fit for me. It would permit me to spend my life playing the games and puzzles of the Code, write on tax and nonprofit areas of interest, and engage intellectually with students. I spent several years teaching at George Washington, and then moved to New York to take a position as a law professor at St. John’s University School of Law. Aside from several semesters as a visitor at such schools as Arizona State University College of Law, I have been teaching courses in nonprofit organizations, international tax, corporate tax, and individual federal income tax at St. John’s for 19 years. For the most recent 10 years, my scholarship has concentrated on various domestic and international matters involving nonprofit organizations. So, my 20th year of law school teaching is fast approaching, and I plan to continue for some time thereafter to spend my life playing with the Code’s games and puzzles.

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