Insanity sitting on the bench

Oh, the lower back pains that inevitably afflict a judge who sits all day on the bench!  And the medications resorted to by such judges contribute to depression and bipolar disorders, which lead to temporary insanity, which leads them to harass their mistresses' daughters.

So insinuated Sol Wachtler, ex-chief judge of the New York Court of Appeal, in 1993.  Fortunately, Sol Wachtler owned his misdeed and struck a plea bargain, taking one for the team and thereby preserving some integrity for New York's court system.  Had Judge Wachtler actually asserted the insanity defense successfully, it would have wrought havoc with the entire New York State judicial system.  Plaintiffs and defendants against whom the judge ruled would surely have claimed that Wachtler's assertion of insanity tainted the judgments he had authored.

Diane Kroupa was robed for the U.S. Tax Court on 13 June 2003 for a 15-year term.  For reasons that seemed a bit obscure at the time, she resigned from the bench in 2014, four years before the expiration of her term.  On 4 April 2016, the mystery behind Judge Kroupa's resignation became clear: she and her husband were indicted on various criminal tax charges.  Kroupa's indictment carried some troubling implications.  She obviously knew that she was under investigation for some time prior to her resignation.  Many of us in the tax community wondered not so much whether, but when an unhappy taxpayer against whom Kroupa had ruled would seek a review of Kroupa's adverse decision.

On 13 June 2016, Dolores W. Gregory reported in Bloomberg BNA Daily Tax Report that the Eaton Corporation has moved to seek reconsideration of a Kroupa decision against it.  The decision against Eaton was worth approximately a half-billion dollars to the IRS.

Either Judge Kroupa was insane at the time she ruled against Eaton or she had her mental faculties about her.  Either way brings disgrace upon the Tax Court, for not only is the Internal Revenue Service becoming notorious for the shtick it is pulling of late, but so is the Department of Justice, which does the actual criminal prosecutions of tax cases.

I, for one, am not willing to bet my quarterly tax payment that Kroupa was not throwing cases the IRS's way in hopes of some lenity in the tax case against her and her husband.

Kenneth H. Ryesky, now a senior adviser in the U.S. Desk of Ernst & Young's International Tax Services in Tel Aviv, is a lawyer who has taught business law and taxation at Queens College CUNY.  He formerly served as an attorney for the IRS.