Saturday, November 17, 2018
Leandra Lederman (Indiana), Increased Transparency in the U.S. Tax Court: Has the Moment Arrived?:
Transparency is a widely accepted judicial norm. It increases courts’ accountability and thereby increases the confidence and trust litigants and the general public have in courts’ decisionmaking. The comparatively limited access afforded to Tax Court documents is a longstanding issue. The reason Tax Court transparency differs from that of other courts is partly structural, in that the Tax Court isn’t as neatly situated in the federal government’s org chart as Article III courts, administrative agencies, or even Article I courts such as the Court of Federal Claims. (In fact, even which branch of government the Tax Court is located in has presented a puzzle.) Accordingly, the Tax Court traditionally has created many of its own rules and procedures, such as ones governing access to its documents. This means that the question is also partly cultural. As discussed below, access to Tax Court documents has increased over time, and the appointment of several new Tax Court judges may mean that we see further changes in the future. ...
What’s past is prologue, however. The Tax Court’s broad self-governance also means that it has the power to greatly increase its transparency. Les Book has blogged that, at the Tax Court Judicial Conference in March of this year, some of the judges expressed interest in increased electronic access. And the addition of new Tax Court judges could give rise to further cultural changes. Two new judges have been sworn in in the past month or so: Judge Patrick Urda on September 27 and Judge Elizabeth Copeland on October 12. That still leaves the 19-member court with 4 vacancies, but President Trump has announced 4 nominees. With so much new blood, the Tax Court’s self-governance could move in new directions. Perhaps we will see increased Tax Court transparency in the near future. That would be a very welcome development!