Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award

The Section of Taxation is pleased to announce the 2014 Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award recipient, the Honorable Peter J. Panuthos, Chief Special Trial Judge for the United States Tax Court. Throughout his career, Judge Panuthos has been a dedicated public servant. Judge Panuthos has been the driving force behind the establishment and growth of the Calendar Call program, which provides pro bono assistance to pro se taxpayers at every calendar call in every city the Tax Court sits. Judge Panuthos has also been an active contributor to the Pro Bono and Tax Clinics Committee, providing updates to Section members and a creceptive ear for practitioners to bring their concerns about challenges facing low income taxpayers.

The Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award was established in 2002 to recognize one or more individuals or law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law. In 2007, the award was renamed in honor of the late Janet Spragens, who received the award in 2006 in recognition of her dedication to the development of low income taxpayer clinics throughout the United States.

In Memoriam

As we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award recipient, the Honorable Peter Panuthos, the Tax Section also mourns the loss of Mark Moreau, the 2013 Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award co-recipient. Mark passed away on February 25, 2014, after a courageous battle with kidney cancer.

Mark’s dedication to public interest tax law transformed the low income taxpayer and pro bono communities. As Executive Director of New Orleans Legal Assistance Corp. from 1988-2003, and then as co-Executive Director of its successor organization, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) in 2003, Mark established the principle that tax is a staple of the low-income practice tableau. To nurture the growing community of poverty tax lawyers and assist the growing cadre of pro bono attorneys, Mark co-edited the 2013 Louisiana Legal Services and Pro Bono Desk Manual and wrote many of its chapters, including its chapter on tax representation issues affecting low income individuals. For Mark, representation meant holism—that no client’s legal needs should be left unmet. This ideal inspired the development of the first generation of legal services tax lawyers.

Spawned by his tireless work following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mark forged a new area of low income taxpayer relief focusing on providing services to low income people in the wake of natural disasters. Based on this work, Mark wrote the chapter on disaster-relief tax issues for the Tax Section’s low income taxpayer clinic manual, Effectively Representing Your Client Before the IRS, 4th Edition, sharing his expertise and revelatory ideas with low income taxpayer clinics and pro bono attorneys across the country.

Mark received numerous awards applauding his exemplary service to the poor. The New Orleans Bar Association and the New Orleans Bar Foundation created the Mark Moreau award in 2014 and now funds a fellowship in his name at SLLS. Both the award and the fellowship support and recognize impressive careers in public interest law. He also received the National Taxpayer Advocate Award from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in 2012, the New Orleans City Business Leadership in Law Award, Humanitarian of the Year Award, Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence into Action Award, and the Louisiana State Bar Association Career Public Interest Award. In addition to the Tax Section’s Janet Spragens Award, the American Bar Association honored Southeast Louisiana Legal Services with the Hodson Award in 2012, recognizing sustained, outstanding performance by SLLS under Mark’s leadership.

Mark’s persistent, gentle optimism that law could radically change the lives of poor people for the better made him loved and respected by his colleagues in New Orleans and across the country.  He will be sorely missed.

Thanks for everything, Mark.

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