Ballard v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue - Oral Argument - December 07, 2004

Ballard v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

Media for Ballard v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 07, 2005 in Ballard v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 2004 in Ballard v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

John Paul Stevens:

The Court will now hear argument in Ballard against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

Mr. Shapiro.

Stephen M. Shapiro:

Thank you, Justice Stevens, and may it please the Court:

Judge Cudahy stated in his dissent in the Seventh Circuit that disclosure of the rule 183 report in this case should be required on both statutory and constitutional grounds.

As Judge Cudahy put it, there is no item of more significance in evaluating a Tax Court's decision on fraud than the unfiltered findings of the STJ.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Shapiro, can this case, in your view, be decided solely on the statutory question?

Stephen M. Shapiro:

Oh, yes, Your Honor.

We believe it can.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

There also are due process allegations, and I'm not sure I even quite understand what the precise due process violation is that's alleged.

But I would like you to address both and to tell us, first of all, how it would be resolved solely on a statutory basis from your perspective.

Stephen M. Shapiro:

The readiest ground for decision is the statutory basis, and we believe that the statute is a good means to avoid a complex due process question.

There are two statutes that are key here.

One is the appellate review statute.

The other is the public record statute.

The public record statute says all reports of the Tax Court are public records, and we're talking about a report of the Tax Court in this case.

The legislative history of that provision shows Congress had the broadest possible intent to make all practices in the Tax Court completely transparent.

All steps in the adjudication were supposed to be--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, would that include... if a Tax Court judge had a law clerk, would it include law clerk memos to the judge?

Stephen M. Shapiro:

--We... we don't take that position.

It refers to reports of judges, and this is a report of a trial judge who heard the witnesses.

The report is presumed correct under rule 183.

It's the only independent evaluation of witness credibility--

Stephen G. Breyer:

Now, why... why do you say that?

Stephen M. Shapiro:

--and the only judge--

Stephen G. Breyer:

Would you elaborate for this reason?

Because the briefs and you again today keep talking about that first document.

You use the word report.

Stephen M. Shapiro:

--Yes.

Stephen G. Breyer:

Well, to me that's the whole conclusion of the case.

I'm prepared to assume, at least for the moment, if you can convince me that that's the report they're talking about, you'd win.