Just Because

Just because you’re a lawyer it doesn’t mean you’re a good lawyer. Right now I’m having an argument with a lawyer in the comments of another blog about whether the states can sue the federal government over matters relating to the enforcement of state law. My understanding is that states have special standing WRT suing the federal government regarding matters of enforcing state law.

Among other things I believe that this means that states could impose a state payroll tax analogous to FICA that would apply to federal employees working in those states. I doubt that states could require the federal government to pay the employer side of such a tax but even on that I’m not sure. It would be an interesting test.

14 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    When you argue with a lawyer, you always lose in one way or another.

  • PD Shaw

    This is particularly true (and I didn’t peak) if you are arguing with a person that puts the name and year of his law school in his handle. This is someone who uses a title to preach false certainty and at times dissemble.

  • About 40 years ago I realized that Mensa was an organization for people who needed to belong to an organization for smart people for anyone to believe that they were smart.

    Credentials and competence are not mutually exclusive but the more you advertise the former the more it calls the latter into question.

  • PD Shaw

    And law schools, particularly those purporting to be national law schools, don’t necessarily teach what the law is. They teach how to research the law, read the law, and argue about the law, but the assumption is that laws change, and laws will differ from state to state and will be of varying interest to any given lawyer’s career.

  • Two observations my dad (a lawyer) used to make:

    1. A lawyer learns more in the first two years of practice than in law school.
    2. A lawyer should go to law school in the state in which he or she intends to practice (particularly important in Missouri, Louisiana, and California). The community that a lot of Top 20 law school graduates intend to serve is Big Finance.

  • Andy

    I’ve known a lot of bad lawyers.

    Which blog? Is it worth reading? I’m looking for some new content.

  • PD Shaw

    @Andy, does the federal government withhold state income taxes from federal employee paychecks? I assumed they did, which was why a lot of oversees military personnel establish residency in Florida.

  • Andy

    PD,

    Yes, Federal employees must pay all state and local taxes. The federal government will withhold state and local income taxes from paychecks. Military personnel have an exception where they can claim and maintain a single state of residence and file taxes there (because military people move every 2-4 years). Many do pick Florida or Texas because of the tax benefits and the ease of domiciling in those two states.

    Here’s an example of the monthly pay statement all federal employees receive:

    https://www.usbr.gov/gp/employment/neo/tab6/ELS2012.pdf

  • PD Shaw

    I should be clear my snark was directed towards a commenter at another blog, not any blog or blogger. On law blogs, I read from time to time:

    Popehat, who has a good post up about talking with the FBI that should be required reading for anybody thinking about talking with the FBI or wanting understand how they could become a felon themselves.

    Simple Justice, a criminal defense attorney, who often offers correctives of mainstream / liberal journalists who don’t know what they are talking about.

    Volokh Conspiracy, though it seems like the place was hopping a little bit more when guns and religious liberty issues were front and center.

  • PD Shaw

    @Andy, thanks that’s what I thought. It seems like someone might be arguing on a point that it matters whether the feds are doing this by consent.

    My thumbnail impression of the issues are: States cannot tax the federal government, which was decided in McCulloch v. Maryland, when the State tried to tax the Bank of the U.S. That case made famous the phrase: “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” But left open the possibility that the state could tax the land and the returns received by investors under neutral principles.

  • TastyBits

    I do not know about the requirements for Missouri or California, but from what I understand, you must go to a Louisiana law school to be certified to practice in the state. For most other states, it is easy to get cross-certified, and it is easy to find a lawyer in your state to file a suit in another. For Louisiana, you need two law degrees.

    If you live in Louisiana, you do not want to have your wife get into an car accident in California. Finding a California lawyer is a nightmare.

    Non-federal government employees are not required to pay FICA because of the 10th Amendment, but I do not know if this has ever been tested in court.

  • Andy

    PD,

    A lot of it probably boils down the details of federal enclaves. I saw a bit of this in the military where state and local laws sometimes applied and sometimes didn’t.

  • I do not know about the requirements for Missouri or California, but from what I understand, you must go to a Louisiana law school to be certified to practice in the state.

    Both Missouri and Louisiana use the Civil Code to varying degrees. California law is sufficiently complicated that you must have gone to law school there to pass the California bar.

    I’ve known a lot of bad lawyers.

    Well, you know what they say. 90% of lawyers give the others a bad name. 😉

  • Andy

    PD,

    An interesting case is combat pay tax exclusions. Service in a declared combat zone is free from federal income taxes but not FICA. States can continue to collect state taxes and the Feds will withhold as necessary, but most states passed the same exemption so most military members in a combat tax exclusion will not pay federal or state income taxes.

    By contrast federal civilian employees deployed to a combat zone do not get the exclusion and must pay all federal and state taxes – though I think some states do give a break for this as well.

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