Monthly Archives: March 2012

Placing British Employment Law In Context

Hugh Collins, Employment Law (2d ed. 2010).

It is probably fair to generalize that the best American legal scholarship in the fields of labor, employment, and employment discrimination law has found little inspiration in the study of comparative law. Hugh Collins’s analytic and insightful but succinct overview of British employment law — republished in 2010 in a second edition to account for significant developments in response to European Union law — should teach any perceptive American reader that this need not be the case. This two hundred sixty page volume demonstrates that studying how other developed countries have addressed common issues presented by the employment relationship not only can help define practical and conceptual problems for American law to address but also can help spark creative thinking about solutions.

Professor Collins, who has served as general editor of the Modern Law Review and twice successfully led the law department at the London School of Economics, places the employment law of Britain in both an historical and political-social context. The historical context includes our common nineteenth century liberal tradition of free contracting and our common twentieth century response of industrial pluralism to the “commodification” of labor and the resultant threats to economic and political stability. The political-social context includes the sometimes divergent influences from America and Europe, with the latter becoming more dominant through European Union directives. Continue reading "Placing British Employment Law In Context"

Tax Ethics: Advice from the Past

Michael Hatfield, Legal Ethics and Federal Taxes, 1945-1965: Patriotism, Duties, and Advice, 12 Fl. Tax Rev. 1 (2012), available at SSRN.

Major cases in the news from tax shelter promotions to corporate accounting abuses have once again put the ethical obligations of  lawyers, and specifically tax lawyers, onto center stage (or at least in the wings).  Congress passed increased standards for return preparers and the Treasury has followed with increased preparer standards in Circular 230.

It is within this framework that I read Professor Michael Hatfield’s article, which examines the ethical debate and discussions by some of the leading scholars and practitioners during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  These tax lawyers were at the forefront of discussions regarding the modern income tax.  Professor Hatfield’s historical examination provides us with insight into what they were thinking, and provides us with food for thought as we examine modern ethical problems. Professor Hatfield’s point is just that, to provide us with food for thought.  He does not attempt to draw conclusions from this debate regarding what we should do now.  Instead, he carefully and thoroughly outlines the debate at the time and leaves us with opportunity to draw our own lessons from the analysis.  What is clear from the article is that the leading tax lawyers of the time were as conflicted as we are today on many issues, especially the question whether tax lawyers had a special “duty to the system.”  Interestingly, however, they were almost universal in their agreement on two major points: (1) that the payment of taxes was a civic duty, one which had a strong patriotic element, and (2) tax lawyers had a duty to be proponents, reformers, and educators about the tax system. Continue reading "Tax Ethics: Advice from the Past"

State Interpreters

Oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will consume three days of the Supreme Court’s schedule, an unusual assignment of the Court’s time. But the constitutional challenge, assuming it fails, will be just the first act in a long performance.  Abbe Gluck’s tremendous essay recently published in the Yale Law Journal takes up some of the fascinating potential statutory interpretation questions waiting in the wings.

These questions arise from the mix of institutional design choices involving the states in the Act (and in other legislation). The choices include provisions implemented only by the federal government, provisions implemented only by the states, and, of particular interest, provisions involving both sets of actors. Gluck trains on this last category, noting that the Act “appears to deploy the [state-federal] relationship strategically – as a way to expand the federal presence into several key areas of traditional state control – and somewhat paradoxically, also expressively, as a way to acknowledge the states’ traditional authority over health insurance.” (pp. 584-5) Continue reading "State Interpreters"