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7 March 2005

Supreme Court in 7-2 Vote Rejects Tax Court Secrecy

7 March 2005, Washington D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision has overturned the United States Tax Court procedure that shielded important judicial reports from disclosure to people with cases before the court and to federal judges who review the tax court's decisions.

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP partner Stephen Shapiro presented oral argument for Burton W. Kanter and Claude Ballard, the taxpayers in the suit. Mayer Brown senior counsel Philip Lacovara and associate Lauren Rosenblum Goldman were counsel on the petition for certiorari and briefs.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the Court's opinion requiring disclosure of recommendations by ''special trial judges'' who hold trials and make detailed recommendations in tax cases involving more than $50,000. The tax court had regarded these recommendations as confidential internal documents and refused to make them available to litigants and federal judges hearing appeals.

"However efficient the Tax Court's practice may be, we find no warrant for it in the rules the Tax Court publishes," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote. "The commissioner may not rely on the tax court's arbitrary construction of its own rules to insulate special trial judge reports from disclosure."

The case was brought by tax lawyer Burton W. Kanter, along with Claude Ballard, who were found liable in a $30 million tax case that dated to the 1970's. Mr. Kanter died in 2001, and the case was carried on by his estate. The case is Ballard v. Commissioner, No. 03-184.

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