The Story of Earl: How Echoes (and Metaphors) from the Past Continue to Shape the Assignment of Income Doctrine
Patricia A. Cain
Santa Clara University - School of Law
TAX STORIES: AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT TEN LEADING FEDERAL INCOME TAX CASES, Foundation Press, Forthcoming
This paper presents the story of Lucas v. Earl, 281 U.S. 111 (1930), the seminal case in the assignment of income area that also led to the availability of joint returns for married couples. The case is perhaps most famous for Justice Holmes' "fruit and tree" metaphor. Drawing upon the personal history of Guy Earl (including his role in the development of Northern California and the possible motivation behind the 1901 agreement with his wife Ella to share their income), the parties' briefs (including the role of Mabel Walker Willebrandt, the first woman to serve as Assistant Attorney General and as head of the Tax Division), judicial opinions in other assignment of income cases (especially those dealing with community property states), and scholarly commentary, the paper describes what was really involved in the Earl case, the government's and the taxpayer's litigation strategies, the decision-making processes of the courts, and the case's impact on the development of the tax law.
The paper will be published as a chapter in a book to be entitled Tax Stories: An In-Depth Look at Ten Leading Federal Income Tax Cases (Foundation Press, forthcoming 2002). Additional financial support for the project has been provided by the American Tax Policy Institute.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 23, 2002
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