Pro Bono Matters On the Basis of Sex
Tax Notes 1037 (August 12, 2019)
4 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020
Date Written: August 12, 2019
The movie "On the Basis of Sex" begins on the testosterone-dominated stairs of Harvard Law School, to the booming blare of “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard,” the still-popular Harvard fight song. Framed by the equal partnership that is Kiki and Marty Ginsburgs’ true-love story, the movie chronicles now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s methodical path to overturning laws that discriminated on the basis of sex. Central to the movie is a pro bono tax case. This essay describes the tax case and why pro bono mattered so very much to the taxpayer, Charles E. Moritz, a 63 year-old bachelor living in Denver with his mother, Mrs. B.E. Moritz. Mrs. Moritz was 89 and in poor health, suffering from arthritis, loss of hearing, lapses of memory, and other senior ailments. Mr, Moritz cared for his mother by paying for care in his home. He filed his tax return claiming a tax benefit that was statutorily not allowed for unmarried men. Mr. Moritz went to the U.S. Tax Court and lost. Marty Ginsburg, a renowned tax attorney, read the decision and handed the written transcript over to his wife, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg sought to represent Mr. Moritz on his appeals a pro bono basis. Pro bono tax mattered deeply to Charles and his mother and, in turn, it jump-started a successful litigation strategy that in time lead to the U.S. Supreme Court finding that discrimination on the basis of sex was unconstitutional.
Keywords: gender discrimination, tax justice, access to justice, pro bono, tax, caregiving
JEL Classification: H20, H21, H22, H23, H24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation