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January 19, 2018

States Should Tax the Over Two Trillion Dollars About to Be Deemed Repatriated (But Many Are Not Going To If They Do Not Act)

Here is the Why and the How (roughly)

By Darien Shanske

[Cross-posted from Medium.]

Under its pre-2018 international tax regime, the United States attempted to tax the income of multinational corporations on the basis of their worldwide income. To take a non-random example, the United States sought to tax Apple on its income earned all over the world. The old US international tax regime did permit multinational firms to defer payment of tax on the income they earned oversees - defer until the firm brought the money home. So, until Apple Germany sent home its profits to Apple US, those profits would not be subject to tax. Naturally, Apple and other multinationals let a lot - like over 2 trillion dollars a lot - of income hangout abroad.

One strategy, used for instance in 2004, to bring this money home to the US was to offer a special low rate. Repatriate now and pay 5.25% rather than the usual 35% rate. The tax law just passed, commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but actually having no name, applies much stronger medicine. Kind of. The TCJA deems all of this income to be repatriated and then applies a tax rate of 8% or 15.5%. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that this provision will raise $338 billion over ten years (see bottom of page 566 of the PDF). To return to Apple, this one company alone expects to pay $38 billion on $252 billion in repatriated earnings.

Given that there was no good reason for the tax on this income to have been deferred, this deeming provision is arguably pretty sensible. Alas, several other aspects of this part of the law make it a travesty, as so much else is in The Act with No Name. First, if this income was going to be deemed returned anyway, why not subject it to the actual rate that was avoided (35%) or at least the new very low rate (21%)? Second, this is one-time money. The Obama Administration had planned to commit the money from repatriation to infrastructure, including capitalizing an infrastructure bank. Instead, the Act with No Name uses this one time money for short-term and likely ineffectual economic stimulus.

But all is not lost. As Daniel Hemel has already explained, states should tax the deemed repatriation. The basic reason to do so is the same reason that the states should generally act to undo as much of this law as possible. It is terrible policy; it is squandering our national wealth for no discernible reason. Let's return to infrastructure. On top of the lost opportunity costs from spending this one-time money wisely, and thanks to the Act's exploding the federal debt, the federal government has only made itself less able to serve as a partner to the states in financing infrastructure. States should act to use this one-time money to do the right thing and establish their own infrastructure banks or finance other capital projects. (One other idea: states should consider using the money to start a climate science institute the way California started a stem cell science institute when the federal government dropped the ball in that area during the Bush II years.)

The states should also tax these repatriated earnings because it is efficient for them to do so. Ordinarily, states need to worry about taxpayer response. If this were another tax amnesty, then a state might worry that local firms would not repatriate their foreign earnings at all if the state imposed too high a tax. Or perhaps firms might move. But these earnings are coming home no matter what, and this year. Further, deemed repatriation is a one-time event as the United States fundamentally changes its approach to international taxation. The United States is shifting to a territorial system. The US will not even attempt to tax multinationals on their worldwide income in the future. (To use jargon, this is a rather inelastic tax base.)

States can tax this deemed repatriation, but their current tax systems are not designed to do so - or at least not well. New York just recently reported that it expected to net very little from this repatriation (see pp. 28-29). The details must await another time (or at least the appendix to this blog post), but it should not be surprising that state tax systems are not designed to effectively deal with the deemed repatriation. Consider the tax rate. The rate that states apply to the deemed repatriation should be pretty high. Again, multinationals cannot avoid repatriating this income. But state corporate income tax rates are set taking interstate competition into account. A state that usually taxes corporate income at 5% might well consider a 20% rate on the deemed repatriation appropriate - after all a 20% rate captures most of the windfall given to the corporations by the federal Act.

An even bigger issue is that states generally permit multinational corporations to choose to have only their income generated from the US subject to tax. This is called a "water's edge" election. Again, in the usual context of interstate competition, this makes sense. The law governing this election is complex and differs between states. Suffice it to say that these laws in many cases will permit multinational corporations to avoid paying state corporate income tax on much of their repatriated earnings.

So states should pass new laws that explicitly cope with this situation. (I get into the weeds of what this law might look like in the appendix.)

But can states do this? The answer, I believe, is yes - but with an explanation. States cannot reach out and tax extraterritorial value, but states can tax an apportioned share of the business income of a multinational corporation. They can also tax the non-business income of a corporation at the place of commercial domicile. What does this mean? Take Apple and California. California can say that it is going to tax Apple on its worldwide income, but subject to a reasonable formula that apportions that income to California. Only income generated by Apple as a unitary business can be apportioned. Income earned by Apple in some other way, say as investment income, can be taxed by a business' commercial domicile. In this case, this would also be California.

Apportionment is generally done by a formula. States will typically choose an apportionment formula appropriate to their competitive position. A market state like California apportions the income of multi-state corporations on the basis of sales. A big resource state like Montana only uses the location of sales for 1/3 of its formula, but also uses the location of property and payroll. But in the context of this one time deemed repatriation provision, states need not be overly concerned with choosing a competitive formula. Thus an apt formula might be: The income from the deemed repatriation should be apportioned on the basis of historical sales or property and payroll or state population, which ever is higher.

(As a backstop, the law might provide that any income found not to be apportionable is still subject to allocation.)

But can the rate on this repatriated income be higher than for other corporate income? I think there are good arguments that it can be. After all, states often have different rates for different kinds of income and even different kinds of businesses. See, for example, here and here. And this is leaving to the side the different effective rates that corporations pay based on any credits they might receive - or any penalties that might be imposed. If states can and do have higher taxes on less mobile businesses, on financial businesses and can impose significant penalties, then it seems that a state can also impose a higher rate on this repatriated income, which is a kind of like an immobile windfall, kind of like a financial asset and, though accumulating this revenue was not illegal, the extremes of deferral that some firms went to can be viewed as a kind of behavior that a state could reasonably want to discourage by applying a rate higher than would have been applied if the income had been brought back earlier.

To sum up, states should impose a special tax on the deemed repatriation at a high rate with a favorable apportionment formula. There will be litigation, of course, but I think the states will win.

Appendix

A first cut at some in the weeds issues. First, one should remember that in a case challenging state taxes in this context, the burden is heavily on the taxpayer. This might turn out to be very important.

Second, one might wonder if states really can change their tax systems to reach this income. Interconnected corporations often dividend income to one another and, when they do, the receiving corporation is often entitled to a "dividends received deduction" on the theory that the corporation sending the income has already been subject to tax. One might think the situation is different when the dividend is coming from abroad, and the matter is tricky, but in at least most cases the Supreme Court has held that domestic and foreign dividends must get similar treatment. Thus, if this repatriation is just a big dividend, then states probably cannot subject it to a special rate. But, unlike in 2004, the deemed repatriation is not categorized by the federal law as a "dividend." Rather, the deemed repatriation is another type of income that multinational corporations can create - "Subpart F Income." Don't ask what that is, but do note that it is not a dividend. Many - perhaps most (feel free to email me with information on this)- states do not tax Subpart F income either, as is the case in NY, but the states could and without violating the equal treatment of dividends rule. For a model of what this could look like, look no farther than California's special rule for the taxation of Subpart F income. (See in particular Cal. Rev. and Tax Code Sec. 25110(a)(2)(A)(ii)). Yes, this is obscure stuff. At least one analysis by a consultant to the California Senate Committee on Governance and Finance seems to agree with my take. This is the analysis of SB-337 (Bates)). California's approach is still far from optimal, but it seems to be the very least that states should do.

 

December 8, 2017

I attempt a principled defense of the House approach to SALT repeal

(Spoiler Alert: I fail)

By Darien Shanske

[Cross-posted from Medium.]

The tax reform plan that just passed the House of Representatives repeals the SALT deduction, except for $10,000 in property taxes. The Senate plan would repeal the deduction outright, though there appears to be a chance that the final Senate bill will move closer to the House position. Numerous commentators have weighed in on both plans and, in general, the consensus is that neither plan is very well conceived. There are at least three main lines of criticism, all of which I largely agree with. First, per Daniel Hemel (and many others), on basic income tax principles there is a sound argument that some portion of the deduction should be maintained for individuals because these taxes do not pay for personal consumption, and so the Senate plan simply fails on that ground. There is also a good argument that the deduction is justified for businesses, though note that retaining the deduction for businesses but eliminating it for individuals leads to incentives for individuals to take the SALT deduction at the business level. Perhaps, as David Kamin explains, this problem has now been addressed, though, as he also notes, the current legislation does not take into account numerous possible responses by the states to eliminating the individual deduction.

Second, as to which set of taxes - state or local - have the better claim to be retained as a deduction on income tax principle, the better argument is for state income taxes and not property taxes, which are typically local. This is because, as Gladriel Shobe has argued here and here, there is a stronger argument that local property taxes are prices paid to consume local amenities rather than state level taxes. The House proposal therefore gets matters backwards from an income tax principle (and distributive) perspective.

A third important critique is to note that eliminating the deduction, when combined with other aspects of the Republican plans, amounts to a tax increase specifically targeted to certain parts of the country. This is just not good for our polity.

But can anything positive be said about this? I can almost make an argument in favor of the House approach as to the property tax. That I can't in the end illustrates, in yet another way, the incoherence and meanness of these proposals. Back in 2012, I argued that there was a good argument for the federal government to repeal the SALT deduction except for the property tax component. My argument was not based on income tax principles, but on the proper role of the central government in a federation. One of those roles is maintaining stability and generally optimizing the revenue system of all of the component governments. It is axiomatic that the property tax is a relatively efficient tax that should be assigned to local governments to finance local public goods. The forty years since California's Proposition 13 has also made it clear that states and localities were reducing their reliance on the property tax - in part because of the liquidity problems commonly associated with the tax. There was therefore, I thought, a good argument that the federal government should intervene to make the property tax relatively cheaper so as to nudge its continued - or even increased - use.

The current House proposal bears some resemblance to what I had in mind and yet I still think the House proposal is not a good idea. Why? For one thing, from the perspective of 2017 I realize that my argument missed at least two big points. First, my underlying assumption was that the federal government would be continuing to carry out another of its key roles - redistribution. Eliminating the SALT deduction in order, in part, to pay for the ACA, or at least prevent cuts to the ACA and other social insurance programs, seemed reasonable distribution-wise in 2012. Indeed, I argued that encouraging the use of the relatively stable property tax actually benefits the less well-off precisely because, as David Gamage has shown, they are the ones most likely to suffer from sharp state and local budget cuts during a recession.

By contrast, in the current context, the proposal is to eliminate or reduce the SALT deduction as part of a spectacularly regressive tax reform proposal that is part of a still broader attempt to sharply reduce the role of the federal government in taking care of the less fortunate. Making it more difficult for the states to care of the very people that the federal government is abandoning - or trying to abandon through, for instance, dismantling the ACA - is deeply wrong. (If we were in the midst of a deep recession, then there would be an independent argument for a fiscal stimulus, but this is not the case.)

In 2012, I also underestimated state resilience (not everyone did). Back then it seemed that California, for example, would not, as a matter of politics, increase its state-level income and sales taxes and, even it could, I didn't think enough could be raised to right the ship. But California did raise its income tax twice, and in a progressive way, and the state currently has built up a significant rainy day fund. Without doubt, California still has fiscal challenges and it would be much better for the state to rely more on the property tax, but I was wrong to think that this was the only way forward. In short, I overestimated the problem to which my proposal was a solution.

In any event, if the House plan were serious about reviving the property tax on fiscal federalism grounds, it would not proceed by means of preserving the deduction in the way that it does, especially in the context of a plan that also doubles the standard deduction. As an itemized deduction that is only worth anything beyond the new larger standard deduction, there is unlikely to be much shift in state or local political economy under the House plan. A way to achieve such a shift would be to make a portion of the property tax an above-the-line deduction, as it was briefly in 2008-09. Though still problematic for the reasons noted at the outset, that would at least represent a coherent - and less regressive - choice to advance a policy goal through advantaging the property tax. Needless to say, I do not expect this to happen.

 

December 8, 2017

Another way states can counter a partial repeal of the SALT deduction

(This expedient could possibly even improve state public finance in the long term.)

By Darien Shanske

[Cross-posted from Medium.]

There have been numerous important discussions of how states might respond to the repeal of the SALT deduction. David Kamin lists some of them here; he also notes that these possible (likely?) responses should be taken into account by the JCT because they will reduce the revenue gains that the federal government is expecting.

I should like to sketch out one additional state response. Suppose the House approach to the SALT deduction were to become law. This means that the deduction would be eliminated except for $10,000 in property taxes. A certain group of taxpayers will now find themselves with less than $10,000 in property taxes to deduct, but lots of state income taxes that they can no longer deduct. To be specific, suppose a taxpayer has $5,000 in property taxes that they can still deduct, but $8,000 in income taxes that they cannot. If $5,000 of the income tax liability could be shifted into the property tax then the taxpayer (and the state) would not be leaving a deduction on the table. This could be done, of course, just by increasing property taxes and reducing income taxes. As it turns out, even if increasing property taxes is on balance a good idea, it is one that is highly fraught politically and has big implications for state-local relations. Also, as the current experience with drive-by tax reform is continually illustrating, major changes to tax systems should not be done quickly. See here for some of the issues raised by a shift to property taxes.

But a state with an income tax need not engage in a prolonged debate about increasing its property tax in order to maximize the value of the SALT deduction for its citizens. In broad strokes, all a state needs to do is formally increase its property taxes so that citizens can get the maximum deduction, but then in effect hold taxpayers harmless by means of the state's income tax.

Here is what this might look like a little more specifically. The state can authorize its localities to impose a special property tax supplement up to $10,000 so as to assure all taxpayers maximize their SALT deduction (if they end up itemizing). Next, the state creates a generous property tax circuit breaker in its income tax. The circuit breaker could work like this: to the extent the property tax burden as a percentage of a taxpayer's income is greater than it was in 2017 - and that increase is a result of a special supplemental property tax - then that additional property tax is forgiven. To be sure, there would be many details to work out (such as coordinating the timing of local property tax collection with the state income tax), but I think the mechanism is sound. An additional refinement could be to make certain that some small portion of the new property tax is in fact collected by the locality so that the whole structure is respected.

I should add that I believe that states (really localities) should increase their use of the property tax in general and that generous circuit breakers are an important way to make this possible. See my argument here. One would hope that the fact that this self-help proposal for the states is also a reasonable idea on its own would make it more attractive.

 

November 30, 2017

Some Thoughts on California's Fiscal Constitution

by Darien Shanske

[Cross-posted from SCOCAblog.]

The California Supreme Court currently has at least two cases relating to California's fiscal constitution on its current docket;[1] two were decided this summer.[2] The phrase "fiscal constitution" is a term of art that designates all the many provisions of the constitution that dictate how governments can raise and spend money. The fiscal constitution of the federal government is very sparse. The fiscal constitution of the state of California is enormously lengthy and complicated. Many of its provisions date to 1879 and are contained in the thirty-six sections of Article XIII, but also see the twenty-three sections of Article XVI. Proposition 13-the proposition that limited property taxes and made numerous other changes-added Article XIIIA. Proposition 4, passed in 1979 in order to advance the "spirit of Proposition 13," added Article XIIIB. Proposition 218, passed by the voters in 1996 and also seeking to backstop Prop 13, added Articles XIIIC and XIIID. Proposition 26, passed by the voters in 2010, and also meant to backstop Proposition 13, amended Articles XIIIA and XIIIC.

Given the volume, complexity and relative recentness of some of these propositions, it is certain that the California Supreme Court will grapple with many more cases involving California's fiscal constitution. These cases are enormously consequential, as they directly implicate how California and its local governments can fund not only basic governmental services, but also price the use of natural resources, such as water. Despite the importance of the topic, there has not been much scholarly attention devoted to how to interpret state fiscal constitutions (and, yes, other states do have law similar to those in California, though none so far as I know has a set of overlapping laws quite so challenging). A lot has been written about whether the provisions are wise policy and/or achieve their goals, but these valuable normative and empirical discussions are of little use when it comes to giving direction to courts grappling with what the provisions before them mean.

This neglect would perhaps be justified if there were no broader perspective to be taken on these provisions. It could be that each court in each state is on its own to do the best job it can given using a combination of the usual exegetical tools-some mixture of text, history, and purpose. In an article forthcoming in the Rutgers University Law Review, I argue that such an ad hoc approach is not justified.[3] In the rest of this post, I will briefly summarize my argument and add some specific reasons why California's fiscal constitution should be approached in the manner I sketch out.

The specific issue I consider is the distinction between taxes and fees. The fiscal constitutions of California, like that of many states, limit the ability of governments to raise taxes. These same constitutions typically do not impose similar limits on the ability of governments to impose a fee, say a building permit fee. But what if a locality chose to levy a gigantic building permit fee and used the proceeds to fund general services? Such a fee would-and should-be considered a "hidden tax" and thus subject to the same limitations as ordinary taxes.

But how high is too high when it comes to fees? In many cases-say fees for water use-the fees must be set high enough to fund major capital expenditures or there will not be a water system to provide water. And do we think higher fees for excessive use of water should be construed to be a constitutional problem? This seems indicated by these provisions because the marginal cost of the additional water is no higher for an excessive user. Yet if tiered pricing meant to encourage conservation is a problem, then there might not be any water left in the water system. What about basic service for poorer users at a discount; does not the provision of such a service mean that other ratepayers are paying too much? But if poorer users would not use the service at all if charged market rates, why might it not be perfectly rational to charge them less if the marginal cost of the additional services was very low? Do we think that airplane passengers who pay full price are subsidizing a customer who pays less for an empty seat on a plane that is about to leave?

Courts are not well situated to answer these questions, but in some states[4]-not yet California[5]-the courts seem to have taken the position that the constitutional distinction between taxes and fees leaves them no choice but to undertake searching substantive review of the fees set by state and local governments. But there is another-better-way, namely for courts primarily to engage in procedural review of the ratemaking process. Such review has real teeth and is well within judicial competence. Most importantly, as I argue, requiring such review is actually a better interpretation of these fiscal provisions.

In general, procedural review is a better interpretation of the provisions of state fiscal constitutions because such review was the norm of the preexisting common law of public finance. In fact, modern administrative law, with its emphasis on procedural review, largely grew out of a critical response to the U.S. Supreme Court's undertaking substantive review of rates set by an expert agency.

Courts properly presume that preexisting common law was known to the proponents of a proposition; courts also presume that terms that had a meaning under the preexisting common law retain that meaning when they become codified unless there is some explicit evidence to the contrary. These presumptions-canons-are proper because assuming knowledge of the preexisting law is consistent with the rule of law value of predictability.

California's fiscal constitution is particularly amenable to a procedural interpretation for several reasons. First, the California courts regularly apply the relevant canons of interpretation, such as that proponents are presumed to have knowledge of the law.[6] Second, the key provisions of California's fiscal constitution explicitly embrace whole phrases of the preexisting common law.[7] Third, California's fiscal constitution manifests a great deal of explicit concern with following proper procedures.[8] This includes shifting the burden of proof to the government.[9]

To be sure, it could be that California's fiscal constitution imposes lengthy procedures, a burden shift, and heightened substantive review. But there is no explicit evidence of such and thus I argue that the application of appropriate canons and analytic superiority should move the court to a procedural interpretation.

As the cases come down, I plan to check back in and offer some assessments of where we are and where we might go.

[1] City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation Dist., (2015)185 Cal. Rptr. 3d 207, review granted and opinion superseded June 24, 2015; Citizens for Fair REU Rates v. City of Redding, (2015) 233 Cal. App. 4th 402, review granted and opinion superseded Apr. 29, 2015.

[2] California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, (2017) 3 Cal. 5th 924; Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara, (2017) 3 Cal. 5th 248.

[3] Shanske, Darien, Interpreting State Fiscal Constitutions: A Modest Proposal (June 19, 2017). Rutgers L. Rev., forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2989313.

[4] Yes I am looking at you Michigan and Missouri. See Zweig v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., (2013) 412 S.W.3d 223; Bolt v. City of Lansing, (1998) 587 N.W.2d 264.

[5] More or less. See Silicon Valley Taxpayers Ass'n, Inc. v. Santa Clara Cty. Open Space Auth., (2008) 187 P.3d 37 (imposing a de novo standard of review).

[6] In re Harris, (1989) 775 P.2d 1057, 1060 (en banc) ("[T]he voters who enact [an initiative] may be deemed to be aware of the judicial construction of the law that served as its source.").

[7] See the emphasis on "reasonableness" in Cal. Const. art. XIIIC § 1(e).

[8] See e.g., Cal. Const., art. XIIID, § 6.

[9] See, e.g., Cal. Const., art. XIIIC, § 1(e) (flush language).

 

October 17, 2017

To Save Their Insurance Markets, States Should Issue Obamacare Bonds

By Darien Shanske

[Cross-posted from Medium.com.]

There is a strong legal argument that insurers are owed cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, notwithstanding the refusal of the current Congress and the President to make the payments. Alas, assuming this is correct, these payments will come too late for current customers and insurers, thereby inflicting real damage to individuals and perhaps permanent damage to the ability of the health insurance system to provide affordable coverage on the individual market. The states can step in and make these payments and, given the scale of the payments relative to state budgets, it would seem that many states should be able to do so. But matters are not so simple. States typically operate under balanced budget rules and cannot simply borrow to pay for some worthy program. There will need to be a budgeting process and the balanced budget rule will force tradeoffs to be made (or taxes to be raised) if a state is to make CSR payments in the present in order to prevent current damage.

But there is another option. The CSR payments are very likely to happen eventually and thus they have a lot of value right now. If adequately compensated for the legal risk through interest payments, investors would likely advance most of the eventual value of the CSR payments today. Indeed, one might imagine that the opportunity to thwart the Trump Administration would lead to such an extraordinary response from investors that borrowing could be end up very affordable indeed.

In this way, the states can protect their citizens while not putting up state tax dollars. Aside from the economic and moral imperatives to protect their citizens that should motivate the states to act, it is also important to note that the states also possess the administrative capacity to collect the relevant insurers, estimate their CSR claims and put together a sensible financing structure. The states can even offer some kind of backup to these bonds to drive down their costs further.

August 31, 2017

Argument Preview: California Cannabis Coalition et al. v. City of Upland

by · May 26, 2017

[Cross-posted from SCOCAblog]

The California constitution subjects tax increases proposed by a local government to vote at a general election, but does this requirement also apply to an initiative measure proposed by the people themselves? The particular provision of the California constitution at issue, Article XIIIC, section 2(b), added by Proposition 218 in 1996, does not indicate whether or not it also applies to initiative measures. The Court of Appeal decision[1] under review in this case found that this provision did not govern initiative measures. Therefore, under this reasoning, initiative measures do not need to be submitted to a vote at a general election.

Viewed from 20,000 feet, one can see there are two plausible ways to approach the absence of clear instruction as to whether initiative measures are covered by this provision. One might argue that there is a deep principle of California law that the people's power of initiative is to be jealously guarded[2] and thus the judgment of the Court of Appeal should be affirmed. On the other hand, one might argue that Proposition 218 was clearly intended to make it harder to raise taxes. And permitting votes on initiative measures to raise taxes at special elections would make it easier to raise taxes (at least assuming the limitations added by Proposition 218 are effective).

The (somewhat simplified) facts of this case seem to be as dry as the question presented, even though they involve cannabis. The California Cannabis Coalition wanted to place an initiative on the ballot at a special election. The measure arguably imposed a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries and so the City argued that the measure must be put on the ballot at a general election, per the state constitutional rule governing the imposition of taxes.

This case has been much written about in tax circles and drew multiple amicus briefs, almost all arguing that the special Proposition 218 rules should govern initiative measures. Among the amici making this argument are the strange bedfellows The California League of Cities and the California Taxpayer's Association. Indeed, the City is represented by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Foundation. On the other side, the high-powered firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the San Diego Chargers in support of the California Cannabis Coalition.

What then is really going on here? Proposition 218 does not just require that all measures imposing a tax be voted on at a general election. It also requires, crucially, a two-thirds supermajority for the passage of special taxes.[3] This is a high hurdle. If the strictures of Proposition 218 do not apply to initiative measures, then this is a way for the people to tax themselves with only a majority vote.  Imagine the residents of a so-called sanctuary city opting to increase their taxes to counter a loss of federal funds.

Given this broader context, it is easy to understand the interest of advocacy groups that are generally hostile to taxes. Apparently the cities are not happy about the Court of Appeal's ruling because they are worried about losing relative control; the cities will have their revenue measures limited by Proposition 218 but initiatives from the voters will not be so limited. And the Chargers, well, they are apparently interested in getting some help from the public in financing a new stadium and a lower threshold for a tax initiative measure would likely be very helpful.[4] That is, it will be easier to get a majority of San Diego residents to back a tax to help the Chargers, but much harder to get a supermajority.

As indicated, I think the text can be mustered to support either position. Furthermore, the legislative history of the ballot measure, such as it is, contains passages supporting both sides. Proposition 218 was certainly about limiting taxes, but also about limiting taxes by making sure that the voters-not just local politicians-get to vote on taxes. Therefore, the case will be decided on the basis of the background principles that the court brings to its analysis and in particular the importance of the power of the initiative.

It should be noted-though it was not by the Court of Appeal-that there is a California Supreme Court decision that is nearly exactly on point and dispositive. In 1978, Proposition 13 added the requirement that the legislature could only increase taxes with a supermajority.[5] The question then arose whether this requirement also applies to tax increases imposed by the voters. In Kennedy Wholesale,[6] the court acknowledged the broad language of that provision could also apply to initiative measures, but held the requirement did not apply to initiative measures, at least in significant part because of the background assumption about protecting the power of the initiative.[7] To be sure, this case can be distinguished on the basis of different text, different ballot history and even the difference between state and local taxation. But crafting such a distinction will be difficult. First, a different canon of interpretation imputes to the voters knowledge of the law, which would include Kennedy Wholesale. The canon is supposed to put the burden on the party seeking to change the law and thus the absence of any indication that Proposition 218 limits the power of initiative is a problem. Second, if there is an important distinction between state and local level fiscal rules, then this implicates many cases in which the courts have toggled between the two in deciphering California's fiscal constitution.

A final note about political economy. It is an empirical question how significant it would be if the California Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal, but there are a few points worth noting.

First, in a world in which the Court of Appeal is affirmed, there will still need to be elections about tax increases (there is an argument made by the appellants that local governments could collude with initiative proponents to get tax increases imposed without an election, but this is a red herring because local governments cannot impose taxes without a vote of the electorate). In other states with similar tax limitation measures, such as Missouri,[8] there is often just the requirement that tax increases be subject to a vote. The underlying political intuition seems to be that taxes are so inherently unpopular that forcing voters to focus on them is tantamount to limiting them. Consider what has happened at the state level since Kennedy Wholesale. The voters of California have indeed approved tax increases via a majority vote, but they have not done so often.

Second, it is true that upholding the Court of Appeal would create an asymmetry between the powers of the people and the powers of government officials. Leaving aside the possible merits of such an arrangement, it is worth noting that the California Supreme Court has already created a not-dissimilar asymmetry through its interpretation of Article XIIIC, section 3. As things currently stand, voters can reduce fees by initiative even after the government has gone through all the procedural requirements for imposing the fee that are mandated by Article XIIID, which was also added by Proposition 218.[9]

Third, it is already the case that general-purpose governments, namely cities and counties, can increase taxes with a majority vote.[10] It is also common practice for these governments to ask for non-binding guidance on how to spend the money that they raise from general tax increases.[11] Thus, it is not clear how much this decision would affect cities and counties.

Finally, the power of initiative is specifically authorized for only cities and counties in the California constitution,[12] and so this decision will have no immediate effect upon special districts, including school districts. That said, the power to impose taxes by initiative could be given to the electors of school districts.[13] Suppose that school district electors were so empowered and that tax increase measures could pass with a bare majority instead of a two-thirds supermajority, as is currently the case. But how much would this matter? School districts have had the ability to finance new capital projects through a 55% vote since 2000 (assuming certain conditions are met).[14] All of this is not to say that there would not be a significant impact should the Court of Appeal decision be affirmed-perhaps schools will find it easier to raise taxes for non-capital costs if current law were changed-only that matters should be kept in perspective.

[1] 245 Cal.App.4th 970.

[2] Kennedy Wholesale, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1991) at 250.

[3] Special taxes are defined in Article XIIIC, section 1(d) as "as any tax imposed for specific purposes, including a tax imposed for specific purposes, which is placed into a general fund." The two-thirds requirement is found in Article XIIIC, section 2(d).

[4] http://www.dailybulletin.com/general-news/20160721/how-the-fate-of-the-san-diego-chargers-could-hinge-on-uplands-marijuana-battle.

[5] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 3.

[6] Kennedy Wholesale, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1991) at 248-49.

[7] Id. at 253.

[8] Mo. Const. art. X, § 22(a).

[9] Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil (2006).

[10] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 2(b).

[11] Coleman v. County of Santa Clara (1998).

[12] Cal. Const. art. II, § 11.

[13] The electors of school districts can use the power of initiative to impose term limits on board members. See Cal. Educ. Code § 35107(c).

[14] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 1(b)(3).

 

May 31, 2017

Argument Preview: California Cannabis Coalition et al. v. City of Upland

(Cross-posted from SCOCAblog.)

by · May 26, 2017

The California constitution subjects tax increases proposed by a local government to vote at a general election, but does this requirement also apply to an initiative measure proposed by the people themselves? The particular provision of the California constitution at issue, Article XIIIC, section 2(b), added by Proposition 218 in 1996, does not indicate whether or not it also applies to initiative measures. The Court of Appeal decision[1] under review in this case found that this provision did not govern initiative measures. Therefore, under this reasoning, initiative measures do not need to be submitted to a vote at a general election.

Viewed from 20,000 feet, one can see there are two plausible ways to approach the absence of clear instruction as to whether initiative measures are covered by this provision. One might argue that there is a deep principle of California law that the people's power of initiative is to be jealously guarded[2] and thus the judgment of the Court of Appeal should be affirmed. On the other hand, one might argue that Proposition 218 was clearly intended to make it harder to raise taxes. And permitting votes on initiative measures to raise taxes at special elections would make it easier to raise taxes (at least assuming the limitations added by Proposition 218 are effective).

The (somewhat simplified) facts of this case seem to be as dry as the question presented, even though they involve cannabis. The California Cannabis Coalition wanted to place an initiative on the ballot at a special election. The measure arguably imposed a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries and so the City argued that the measure must be put on the ballot at a general election, per the state constitutional rule governing the imposition of taxes.

This case has been much written about in tax circles and drew multiple amicus briefs, almost all arguing that the special Proposition 218 rules should govern initiative measures. Among the amici making this argument are the strange bedfellows The California League of Cities and the California Taxpayer's Association. Indeed, the City is represented by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Foundation. On the other side, the high-powered firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the San Diego Chargers in support of the California Cannabis Coalition.

What then is really going on here? Proposition 218 does not just require that all measures imposing a tax be voted on at a general election. It also requires, crucially, a two-thirds supermajority for the passage of special taxes.[3] This is a high hurdle. If the strictures of Proposition 218 do not apply to initiative measures, then this is a way for the people to tax themselves with only a majority vote.  Imagine the residents of a so-called sanctuary city opting to increase their taxes to counter a loss of federal funds.

Given this broader context, it is easy to understand the interest of advocacy groups that are generally hostile to taxes. Apparently the cities are not happy about the Court of Appeal's ruling because they are worried about losing relative control; the cities will have their revenue measures limited by Proposition 218 but initiatives from the voters will not be so limited. And the Chargers, well, they are apparently interested in getting some help from the public in financing a new stadium and a lower threshold for a tax initiative measure would likely be very helpful.[4] That is, it will be easier to get a majority of San Diego residents to back a tax to help the Chargers, but much harder to get a supermajority.

As indicated, I think the text can be mustered to support either position. Furthermore, the legislative history of the ballot measure, such as it is, contains passages supporting both sides. Proposition 218 was certainly about limiting taxes, but also about limiting taxes by making sure that the voters-not just local politicians-get to vote on taxes. Therefore, the case will be decided on the basis of the background principles that the court brings to its analysis and in particular the importance of the power of the initiative.

It should be noted-though it was not by the Court of Appeal-that there is a California Supreme Court decision that is nearly exactly on point and dispositive. In 1978, Proposition 13 added the requirement that the legislature could only increase taxes with a supermajority.[5] The question then arose whether this requirement also applies to tax increases imposed by the voters. In Kennedy Wholesale,[6] the court acknowledged the broad language of that provision could also apply to initiative measures, but held the requirement did not apply to initiative measures, at least in significant part because of the background assumption about protecting the power of the initiative.[7] To be sure, this case can be distinguished on the basis of different text, different ballot history and even the difference between state and local taxation. But crafting such a distinction will be difficult. First, a different canon of interpretation imputes to the voters knowledge of the law, which would include Kennedy Wholesale. The canon is supposed to put the burden on the party seeking to change the law and thus the absence of any indication that Proposition 218 limits the power of initiative is a problem. Second, if there is an important distinction between state and local level fiscal rules, then this implicates many cases in which the courts have toggled between the two in deciphering California's fiscal constitution.

A final note about political economy. It is an empirical question how significant it would be if the California Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal, but there are a few points worth noting.

First, in a world in which the Court of Appeal is affirmed, there will still need to be elections about tax increases (there is an argument made by the appellants that local governments could collude with initiative proponents to get tax increases imposed without an election, but this is a red herring because local governments cannot impose taxes without a vote of the electorate). In other states with similar tax limitation measures, such as Missouri,[8] there is often just the requirement that tax increases be subject to a vote. The underlying political intuition seems to be that taxes are so inherently unpopular that forcing voters to focus on them is tantamount to limiting them. Consider what has happened at the state level since Kennedy Wholesale. The voters of California have indeed approved tax increases via a majority vote, but they have not done so often.

Second, it is true that upholding the Court of Appeal would create an asymmetry between the powers of the people and the powers of government officials. Leaving aside the possible merits of such an arrangement, it is worth noting that the California Supreme Court has already created a not-dissimilar asymmetry through its interpretation of Article XIIIC, section 3. As things currently stand, voters can reduce fees by initiative even after the government has gone through all the procedural requirements for imposing the fee that are mandated by Article XIIID, which was also added by Proposition 218.[9]

Third, it is already the case that general-purpose governments, namely cities and counties, can increase taxes with a majority vote.[10] It is also common practice for these governments to ask for non-binding guidance on how to spend the money that they raise from general tax increases.[11] Thus, it is not clear how much this decision would affect cities and counties.

Finally, the power of initiative is specifically authorized for only cities and counties in the California constitution,[12] and so this decision will have no immediate effect upon special districts, including school districts. That said, the power to impose taxes by initiative could be given to the electors of school districts.[13] Suppose that school district electors were so empowered and that tax increase measures could pass with a bare majority instead of a two-thirds supermajority, as is currently the case. But how much would this matter? School districts have had the ability to finance new capital projects through a 55% vote since 2000 (assuming certain conditions are met).[14] All of this is not to say that there would not be a significant impact should the Court of Appeal decision be affirmed-perhaps schools will find it easier to raise taxes for non-capital costs if current law were changed-only that matters should be kept in perspective.

[1] 245 Cal.App.4th 970.

[2] Kennedy Wholesale, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1991) at 250.

[3] Special taxes are defined in Article XIIIC, section 1(d) as "as any tax imposed for specific purposes, including a tax imposed for specific purposes, which is placed into a general fund." The two-thirds requirement is found in Article XIIIC, section 2(d).

[4] http://www.dailybulletin.com/general-news/20160721/how-the-fate-of-the-san-diego-chargers-could-hinge-on-uplands-marijuana-battle.

[5] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 3.

[6] Kennedy Wholesale, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1991) at 248-49.

[7] Id. at 253.

[8] Mo. Const. art. X, § 22(a).

[9] Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency v. Verjil (2006).

[10] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 2(b).

[11] Coleman v. County of Santa Clara (1998).

[12] Cal. Const. art. II, § 11.

[13] The electors of school districts can use the power of initiative to impose term limits on board members. See Cal. Educ. Code § 35107(c).

[14] Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 1(b)(3).

 

March 30, 2017

Opinion Pieces by King Hall Faculty

King Hall faculty serve as regular contributors of opinion pieces to the media. Here are a few recent examples.

Dennis J Ventry, Jr. in The New York Times: Why Steven Mnuchin Wants a Stronger I.R.S.

"President Trump's Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, knows that investing in the Internal Revenue Service yields significant returns - he said as much during his confirmation hearings. And he's right: Every dollar spent on the agency returns $4 in revenue for the federal government, and as much as $10 when invested in enforcement activities.

Mr. Mnuchin's boss doesn't seem to care, but he should. And not just because the I.R.S. more than pays for itself. Cutting funds for the I.R.S., which has already endured years of budget cuts, would make it impossible for the president to pay for things he says he cares about, including infrastructure, Social Security and the military."

Kevin R. Johnson in The Sacramento Bee: Cuts to legal services for rural, poor people would hurt those who helped elect Trump

"President Donald Trump's proposed budget calls for the elimination of all funding for the Legal Services Corporation, the nation's single largest funder of civil legal aid to low-income people. The proposed cut would hurt the poor, rural voters who helped elect him.

Legal Services Corporation works to ensure that low-income Americans have access to much-needed legal assistance. It is often the sole lifeline for vulnerable people with legal problems that affect their health, housing, safety and economic security.

Continued funding makes basic fiscal sense: LSC delivers far more economic benefits to the country than what it costs to support the program."

Kevin R. Johnson in Salon: Debating the big questions on immigration: What rights do immigrants have - and is the President free to bar them?

This was an online panel for Salon, in which Dean Johnson was a participant.

"Here to add nuance to the immigration debate are three of the nation’s foremost experts on immigration, criminal justice and constitutional law, taking on not only what we already know about Trump’s travel ban and deportation policy but also expected future initiatives from this administration. These scholars address the thorniest issues in immigration, the ones at the root of our present crisis, with all the ballast we need to oppose simplistic talking points: Should immigrants, regardless of status, have constitutional rights? How solid in law and morality is Trump’s reliance on the plenary power doctrine to implement far-reaching changes? Is Trump’s deportation policy an anomaly, or does it have roots in recent bipartisan legislation? And what can the states, as a last resort, do to counter federal anti-immigration initiatives?"

May 6, 2016

Faculty Scholarship: Legal Studies Research Paper Series, Vol. 18, No. 2

Faculty members at UC Davis School of Law publish truly unique scholarship that advances the legal profession. You can view their scholarly works via the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Legal Scholarship Network. An archive can be found on this web page.

What follows here is the most recent collection of papers:

"Corporate Governance and the Indian Private Equity Model" 
National Law School of India Review, Volume 27, Issue 1
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 484

AFRA AFSHARIPOUR, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: aafsharipour@ucdavis.edu

Private Equity (PE) firms have long invested in Western firms using a leveraged buyout (LBO) model, whereby they acquire a company that they can grow with the ultimate goal of either selling it to a strategic buyer or taking it public. Unable to undertake the traditional LBO model in India, PE investors in Indian firms have developed a new model. Under this Indian PE Model, PE firms typically acquire minority interests in controlled companies using a structure that is both hybridized from other Western investment models and customized for India's complex legal environment. As minority shareholders in controlled firms, PE investors in India have developed several strategies to address their governance concerns. In particular, PE investors in India have focused on solutions to address local problems through the use of agreements that govern (i) the structuring of minority investments, (ii) investor control rights, and (iii) exit strategies. Nevertheless, recent governance and regulatory difficulties highlight the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Indian PE model.

"National Data Governance in a Global Economy" 
Columbia School of International and Public Affairs Issues Brief, April 2016
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 495

ANUPAM CHANDER, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: achander@ucdavis.edu

Global data flows are the lifeblood of the global economy today and of the technologies of the future. Yet, the regulation of how data is to be handled remains largely the province of national laws. How we resolve the dilemmas of global flows within a nation-state structure will impact the digital economy, free expression, privacy, security, consumer protection, and taxation. Just as we once built an architecture for cross-border flow of goods, we need to build an architecture for cross-border flow of information.

"The Charming Betsy and the Paquete Habana" 
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 485

WILLIAM S. DODGE, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: wsdodge@ucdavis.edu

This chapter for the book "Landmark Cases in Public International Law" discusses two famous U.S. Supreme Court decisions - The Charming Betsy (1804) and The Paquete Habana (1900). Although written nearly one hundred years apart, each decision appears to stand for similar propositions - that international law has an important place in the law of the United States, but that U.S. domestic law should prevail in the event of conflict. What often goes unnoticed is that the Supreme Court decided these cases against the backdrop of very different understandings about international law and its relationship to U.S. domestic law.

In addition to discussing the background and significance of each case, this chapter describes three shifts in U.S. thinking about customary international law during the nineteenth century. First, the theoretical foundations of customary international law shifted away from natural law towards positivism. Second, the consent requirement for making customary international law shifted from the individual consent of each state to the consent of states generally. And third, the U.S. understanding of the relationship between international law and domestic law shifted away from monism towards dualism - away from an understanding that international law was part of U.S. law unless displaced, towards an understanding that international law was not part of U.S. law unless adopted. The Charming Betsy and The Paquete Habana are landmark cases not because they changed the course of international law in the United States but because they reveal changes in the landscape.

"Probate Lending" 
Yale Law Journal, Vol. 126, 2016
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 492

DAVID HORTON, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: dohorton@ucdavis.edu
ANDREA CANN CHANDRASEKHER, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: achandrasekher@ucdavis.edu

One of the most controversial trends in American civil justice is litigation lending: corporations paying plaintiffs a lump sum in return for a stake in a pending lawsuit. Although causes of action were once inalienable, many jurisdictions have abandoned this bright-line prohibition, opening the door for businesses to invest in other parties' claims. Although some courts, lawmakers, and scholars applaud litigation lenders for helping wronged individuals obtain relief, others accuse them of exploiting low-income plaintiffs and increasing court congestion.

This Article reveals that a similar phenomenon has quietly emerged in the probate system. Recently, companies have started to make "probate loans": advancing funds to heirs or beneficiaries to be repaid from their interest in a court-supervised estate. The Article sheds light on this shadowy practice by empirically analyzing 594 probate administrations from a major California county. It finds that probate lending is a lucrative business. Nevertheless, it also concludes that some of the strongest rationales for banning the sale of causes of action - concerns about abusive transactions and the corrosive effect of outsiders on judicial processes - apply to transfers of inheritance rights. The Article thus suggests several ways to regulate this nascent industry.

"The Social Transmission of Racism" 
Tulsa Law Review, Vol. 51, 2016
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 489

LISA CHIYEMI IKEMOTO, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: lcikemoto@law.ucdavis.edu

This essay reviews two books, Robert Wald Sussman, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea (Harvard University Press 2014) and Osagie K. Obasogie, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind (Stanford University Press 2014). Sussman is an anthropologist who brings his expertise to bear in tracing scientific racism through history. Obasogie is a legal scholar and sociologist who uses both qualitative data gathered through interviews with blind and sighted people and Critical Race Theory to explore racialization's dependence on the idea that race is visually obvious. Each book examines an idea that has sustained racism despite social, political and geographic change. The essay assesses each account and links the authors' analyses to judicial and legislative framings of reproductive rights and to postmodernist scholarship on race, gender and the human body.

"Computer Source Code: A Source of the Growing Controversy Over the Reliability of Automated Forensic Techniques" 
DePaul Law Review, Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 487

EDWARD J. IMWINKELRIED, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: EJIMWINKELRIED@ucdavis.edu

The article deals with two legal issues posed by the growing trend in the United States to automate forensic analyses.

Since World War II, we have had alarming insights into the unreliability of both eyewitness testimony and confession evidence. Those insights have prompted the criminal justice system to place greater reliance on forensic evidence. In one Rand study, the researchers found that expert testimony was presented at 86% of the trials examined. This shift to greater use of expert testimony has placed growing demands on crime laboratories. For example, the backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples has become such an acute problem that Congress was impelled to enact the DNA Backlog Elimination Act to provide funding to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits.

In both the public and private sectors, the typical response to the development of a backlog is technological automation. That has certainly held true for forensic analysis. There is now widespread automation in such areas as fingerprint examination, breath testing, and DNA analysis. The argument runs that automation holds the promise of both enhancing efficiency and improving the accuracy of the analyses proffered in court.

That promise turns on the accuracy of the source code controlling the software governing the automated techniques. The source code embeds the instructions determining which tasks the program performs, how the program performs them, and the order in which it performs the tasks. The validity of a program's source code is the most fundamental guarantee of a software program's reliability. Defense counsel have sometimes challenged the software for automated forensic techniques. Early in this century, the defense counsel attacked the software controlling automated infrared breath testing devices. Today they are challenging the software for the TrueAllele program analyzing mixed DNA samples. Those waves of cases have posed two issues: (1) whether the prosecution can lay a sufficient foundation for evidence based on an automated technique without presenting testimony about the computer source code; and (2) whether the defense has any discovery right to access to the code. Almost all the courts have answered the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative. In responding to the second question, the courts have reasoned that the existence of validation studies for the technique eliminates any need to scrutinize the source code and that in any event, manufacturers have an evidentiary privilege protecting the code as a trade secret. The purpose of this short article is to critically evaluate the judicial response to both questions.

On the one hand, the article argues that the courts have correctly answered the first question. More specifically, the prosecution may lay an adequate foundation by presenting testimony describing validation studies for the automated technique even if the testimony does not touch on the source code. On the other hand, the article contends that in some cases, the courts ought to accord the defense a pretrial discovery limit. The article explains the limited utility of validation studies and notes that the evidentiary privilege for trade secrets is a qualified one that can be surmounted when the party seeking discovery has a significant need for the information. The article proposes a procedure that judges can employ to resolve the tension between the defendant's need for access to the source code and the manufacturer's legitimate interest in safeguarding its valuable proprietary information.

"Beyond Surveillance: Data Control and Body Cameras" 
__ Surveillance & Society __ (2016) Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 494

ELIZABETH E. JOH, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: eejoh@ucdavis.edu

Body cameras collect video data - lots of it - and thus many have raised questions about increased government surveillance. But if understood primarily as data collection, surveillance represents only one concern. In our big data age, "seeing, monitoring, and recording the digital footprints is quite different from sharing, releasing, revealing or publicizing the data." Body camera policies must address not only concerns about surveillance, but also data control.

"Some Thoughts on the Future of Legal Education: Why Diversity and Student Wellness Should Matter in a Time of 'Crisis'" 
Buffalo Law Review, Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 488

KEVIN R. JOHNSON, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: krjohnson@ucdavis.edu

Some vocal critics have loudly proclaimed that the challenges of law school economic have reached "crisis" proportions. They point to the well-known facts about recent developments in the market for law schools. Law schools have experienced a precipitous drop in applications. The global recession decimated the legal job market. To make matters worse, rising tuition has resulted in increasing debt loads for law graduates.

In light of the changes in the legal marketplace, stabilization of the budgetary picture is currently the first priority of virtually every American law school. Faculty members have been let go. Staffs reduced. Enrollment of students - and the collection of tuition revenues - have critical budgetary consequences.

Linked to the economic "crisis" facing law schools and students was deep concern with each school's relative placement in the much-watched U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. These rankings, among other things, affect admissions and enrollment, and thus budgetary bottom lines for law schools.

Much less publicized concerns with legal education involve non-financial issues. The lack of racial and other diversity of students attending law school, and ultimately entering the legal profession, and faculty, has long been a problem. In addition, today's students demand a more humane legal education and are asking for additional academic support, career and mental health counseling, experiential learning opportunities, and more. The costs of the additional services and programs have further added to budgetary pressures on law schools.

This Essay contends that law schools should strive to address the noneconomic as well as the economic problems with modern legal education. In a time of considerable change, this is a most opportune time to consider and implement deep and enduring improvements that benefit students as well as the entire legal profession.

"Welfare Queens and White Trash" 
25 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 289 (2016)
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 486

LISA R. PRUITT, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: lrpruitt@ucdavis.edu

The "welfare queen" is widely recognized as a racialized construct deployed by politicians to undermine support for public benefits and the wider social safety net. Less often recognized or discussed is the flip side of the welfare queen's conflation of blackness with dependency and poverty: the conflation of whiteness with self-sufficiency, autonomy, and affluence. The welfare queen trope, along with media and scholarly depictions of socioeconomic disadvantage as a nonwhite phenomenon, deflects attention from white poverty. Yet data indicate that a majority of poor people in the United States self-identify as white.

This essay, written for the "Reframing the Welfare Queen" symposium, (re)surfaces the existence of white poverty and ponders its (in)visibility, meaning, and significance in relation to the welfare queen construct. Among other things, Pruitt suggests that the welfare queen stigmatype is not just bad for blacks, it is bad for poor whites. First, it obscures white poverty, rendering poor whites and their plight invisible. Second, to the extent we are aware of white poverty, the widespread conflation of whiteness with affluence suggests that poor whites have only themselves to blame, given the benefits widely associated with white-skin privilege.

Given the welfare queen's potency as a racialized construct, we might assume that greater awareness of white poverty would enhance public support for safety net programs because middle and upper income whites would (so the story goes) want to ameliorate white poverty, even if racial animus discourages their support for poor blacks. But Pruitt questions the soundness of this line of reasoning, which discounts the existence and potency of intraracial discrimination in assuming that society feels greater empathy with or concern for the fate of poor whites than for poor nonwhites. In fact, we have several reasons - including empirical studies - to believe that such a well of empathy is missing. A further reason for skepticism is found in a second racialized construct explored in this article: white trash.

"Tax Cannibalization and Fiscal Federalism in the United States" 
Northwestern University Law Review, Forthcoming
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 491
UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2750933

DAVID GAMAGE, University of California, Berkeley - Boalt Hall School of Law
Email: david.gamage@gmail.com
DARIEN SHANSKE, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: dshanske@ucdavis.edu

The current structure of U.S. federal tax law incentivizes state governments to adopt tax policies that inflict costs on the federal government, at the expense of national welfare. We label this the "tax cannibalization problem."

This article introduces the tax cannibalization problem to the law and policy literatures for the first time. This article also explains how U.S. federal tax law might be restructured so as to alleviate the tax cannibalization problem - to counteract the perverse incentives currently leading U.S. state governments to design their tax systems so as to, in effect, wastefully devour federal tax revenues.

"Stitches for Snitches: Lawyers as Whistleblowers" 
UC Davis Law Review, Forthcoming (2017)
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 493

DENNIS J. VENTRY, University of California, Davis - School of Law
Email: djventry@ucdavis.edu

This Article challenges the prevailing wisdom that ethics rules forbid lawyers from blowing the whistle on a client's illegal conduct. While a lawyer is not free to disclose confidential information in every jurisdiction for every legal violation, the ethics rules in all jurisdictions permit disclosure of confidential information pertaining to a client's illegal activities under certain conditions. Proving the lie of the prevailing wisdom, this Article examines a high profile case in the state of New York that ruled a lawyer whistleblower violated the state's ethics rules by revealing confidential information to stop his employer-client from engaging in a tax fraud of epic proportions. The Article argues that the court undertook a deficient analysis of New York ethics rules pertaining to permissive disclosure of confidential client information. Even if the whistleblower had violated his ethical obligations, the New York False Claims Act (the statute under which he brought his action) expressly protects disclosure of confidential employer information made in furtherance of the statute. In addition to New York's statutory shield, federal courts across the country have developed a public policy exception safeguarding whistleblowers for disclosing confidential information that detects and exposes an employer's illegal conduct.

While challenging the previously unchallenged criticism of lawyer whistleblowers, this Article acknowledges the intrinsic appeal of that position. The idea of a lawyer revealing a client's transgressions - particularly for monetary awards paid under various federal and state whistleblower programs - seems unsavory and a threat to the attorney-client relationship. Nonetheless, lawyers have always had the discretion to disclose confidential information to prevent a client from committing a crime or fraud. And although the addition of financial incentives complicates the analysis, modern ethics rules extend to lawyers considerable discretion in revealing confidential client information, even if disclosure makes a lawyer eligible for financial awards.

December 19, 2015

Tax Law Scholarship by Professor Ventry among Most-Downloaded

Our friends at TaxProf Blog have published a ranking of tax law professors by the number of scholarly paper downloads from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) database.

Our own Professor Dennis Ventry ranks among the Top 25 most-downloaded of all time.

Dennis Ventry is an expert in tax policy, tax administration, legal and professional ethics, and U.S. economic and legal history. He is the author of dozens of articles, book chapters, and an edited volume. Professor Ventry is regularly cited in both the tax press and popular media for his expertise on the effects of taxation on the U.S. economy and society.

Congratulations, Professor Ventry!