Attorney-at-Law

COGNOMENS

In Uncategorized on 08/20/2020 at 16:18

A correspondent from that august body, the Tax Section of the American Bar Association, the sacred precincts of which I have never entered, asked me how I derive cognomens for judges. I haven’t yet replied, because I’m not entirely sure how I come up with these. For sure, there is no hard-and-fast rule.

Some are easy: Judge Elizabeth A. (“Tex”) Copeland, though not born a Texan, spent the greatest part of her illustrious career in that State. STJ Diana L (“Sidewalks of New York” a/k/a “The Taxpayer’s Friend”) Leyden was formerly New York City Department of Finance Taxpayer Advocate. Ch J Maurice B (“Mighty Mo”) Foley had been informally known as “Mo” to certain practitioners, and those practitioners passed that on to me long before his election to the Chieftainship. Judge Mark V Holmes got “The Great Dissenter” from his namesake Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who was so called.

CSTJ Lewis Carluzzo was easiest of all. Our forename, given to us to avoid confusion with relatives who otherwise spelled our forename, is a point of pride.

But ex-Ch J L Paige (“Iron Fist”) Marvel was extremely difficult. I even ran an online competition. Finally, when I settled on “Iron Fist,” I was dubious, until I heard from a source that her clerks had placed a sculpted iron fist on the Judge’s desk. Likewise finding a cognomen suitable for ex-Ch J Michael B (“Iron Mike”) Thornton was difficult, until I saw in person his laser-sharp focus as he ran the Tax Court Judicial Conference at Duke University some years ago; no detail, however small, escaped him, even in seemingly casual conversation.

That of Judge Mary Ann (“S.E.C. = She Eschews Cognomens”) Cohen is self-explanatory. I asked the Judge once; following an exalted personage, her “nay was nay.”

Judge David Gustafson is The Obliging Jurist because of his obliging nature.

When I applied “Big Jim” to Judge James S Halpern, a colleague who had known the Judge socially from years ago questioned me, because the Judge is not exceptionally tall. I confess I was nonplussed, and still am. In my defense, when it comes to gravitas, Judge Big Jim is second to none.

Now-retired STJ Robert N Armen was “The Judge With a Heart” because of a Sum. Op. back in 2011, when he let someone who raided the kids’ 529s but put the money back after his wife’s tearful intercession off the 10% whatever.

Some take time. And a lot of thought. To obtain light touch, with no disrespect, isn’t easy.

And as there was neither opinion nor designated hitter today, I thought my correspondent might appreciate a public reply.

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