The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor awarded by the Section of Taxation of the American Bar Association. The award is given to individuals who have had a distinguished career in taxation and who have provided an aspirational standard for all tax lawyers to emulate. The 2020 recipient of this award is Judge L. Paige Marvel in recognition of her service to her former clients, the Section of Taxation, the United States Tax Court, and the tax system in general.
After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law with honors, Paige accepted a position with a small boutique law firm in Baltimore, Maryland that specialized in tax controversy work. The firm, Garbis & Schwait, was founded by Marvin J. Garbis and Allen L. Schwait, two former Justice Department Tax Division attorneys. The firm encouraged its lawyers to work hard for its clients and to be creative in finding solutions to problems. Each attorney in the firm was also encouraged to contribute to the profession and to the community by speaking and volunteering.
Paige took those early lessons to heart. For 24 years, until her appointment as a judge on the United States Tax Court in 1998, she represented a wide variety of clients across a broad range of business and tax matters. She developed an expertise in state and local taxation, divorce taxation, civil and criminal tax controversy, and administrative law, representing individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates, and nonprofit organizations. Her legal work involved both tax and business planning, including estate planning, and civil and criminal tax controversy representation before the Internal Revenue Service and state tax agencies and in the Federal and state courts.
Following the lead of her mentors, Paige also began to develop her skills as a speaker, educator, and writer. Her first speaking engagement required her (and her colleague Marvin Garbis) to talk about the principles of divorce taxation while sitting on stepladders advising domestic relations lawyers who were negotiating a separation agreement. From that unusual beginning, Paige developed into a skilled speaker who was invited to speak at conferences and organizations throughout the United States and, eventually, abroad.
Paige also began to volunteer on a variety of nonbillable legal projects. In 1981, she agreed to serve as chair of the Procedure Subcommittee of the Tax Committee, Commission to Revise the Annotated Code of Maryland. Approximately seven years after the project started, the Maryland legislature enacted a new Tax Procedure – General Article and a new Tax Procedure – Property Article as part of the new Annotated Code of Maryland. In recognition of her contribution to the effort, Paige was awarded a pen used by the Governor to sign the Tax Procedure – General Article into law.
From 1988 to 1999, she served as an adviser to the ALI Restatement of the Law Third – The Law Governing Lawyers. From 1989 to 1991, she served as a member of the Commissioner’s Review Panel on IRS Integrity. She was a member of the Advisory Group of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland that was appointed under the Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990. She has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Loyola Notre Dame Library (1996–2003); the Board of Visitors, University of Maryland Law School (1995–2003); the Advisory Committee of the University of Baltimore Graduate Tax Program (1986–1998); and the Advisory Committee of the Maryland State Department of Economic and Community Development (1979–1981). Perhaps the most significant commitment that Paige made to voluntarism throughout her career, however, involved the ABA Section of Taxation and the Maryland State Bar Association Tax Section. Early in her legal career, Paige became a member of both organizations and decided to get involved. At various times, she has served as a committee chair, a member of the Board, and chair of the MSBA Tax Section. In 2002, in recognition of her contributions to the MSBA, she was selected as the recipient of the first Annual Tax Excellence Award given by the MSBA Tax Section. In the ABA Tax Section, Paige has served as a member of many committees, and as Court Procedure chair, co-chair of the TEFRA Task Force, Council member, and Vice-Chair of Committee Operations. In 2004, Paige received the Jules Ritholz Memorial Merit Award from the ABA Tax Section’s Committee on Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties. Paige has also mentored and continues to mentor many young lawyers in these organizations.
Paige has served as an adjunct professor in the Georgetown University Graduate Tax Program (2016–2018). She has authored numerous articles and chapters on tax procedure and divorce taxation including a chapter in the 2009 Careers in Tax Law: Perspectives on the Tax Profession and What It Holds For You. In the Tax Notes article “2016 Outstanding Women in Tax”, Paige was described as a “natural leader” and the “ideal tax arbiter: a sharp tactician with real-world controversy experience whose considered opinions are both respectful of views vastly different from her own and framed with a strong sense of right and wrong.” Paige was also named as one of the “Global Tax 50” for 2015 and 2017 by the International Tax Review. She has trained and is certified as a mediator. She is a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel, the American Bar Foundation, and the Maryland Bar Foundation, and a member of the American Law Institute.
Throughout her career, Paige has been devoted to the profession and performed distinguished service. But she has also been acknowledged for her accomplishments. In 1998, President Clinton appointed Paige to a 15-year term as a judge on the United States Tax Court. She began immediately to use her skills, energy, and personal magnetism to contribute to the work of the Court. She became a friend and mentor to her colleagues, to her chambers staff, and to other employees of the Court. She has always been generous with her time and is often called upon to discuss and advise law clerks and deputy trial clerks on their future careers. She is adored by her chambers staff. Because of her caring for and advising anyone who approaches her, she maintains long relationships with former clerks and students. President Obama appointed her to a second 15-year term in 2014. During her judicial career, Paige has authored hundreds of opinions and presided over many trials. She has also served on many of the Court’s committees, has chaired the Court’s Human Resources Committee and the Rules Committee, and continues to serve as co-chair of the Rules Committee. She has also chaired the planning committee for several of the Court’s judicial conferences.
In 2016, the judges of the Tax Court elected Paige to serve a two-year term as Chief Judge. As Chief Judge, Paige coordinated administrative and operational matters for the Court and represented the Tax Court throughout the United States and abroad. She spoke at an international forum in London and represented the Court at the anniversary celebration of the Mexican Tax and Fiscal Court. She also spoke at the Annual Assemblies of the International Association of Tax Judges in Helsinki (Finland), Ottawa (Canada), and Cambridge (England) on topics of general interest to national tax courts. As Chief Judge, she hosted visits by domestic and foreign groups at the Tax Court to enhance the public’s knowledge about the Court and its mission.
Paige accomplished many things during her years as Chief Judge. She was proactive in the movement to modernize the Court’s systems, including backup of data to an offsite disaster recovery location and analyzing and improving the Court’s information technology programs. She presented to Congress plans for a modernized electronic filing and case management system and successfully secured funding to begin the project while finding ways to reduce Court spending in other areas. These skills, of course, are not what you learn in law school. Yet Paige approached the challenges with imagination and vigor. At the same time, she was fully engaged in the traditional chief judge duties of maximizing the quality and production of the work of the Court.
In December 2019, Paige took senior status and continues to serve the Court as a senior judge on recall. Review and consolidation of the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure remains a priority of hers. The work she began to modernize the Court’s information technology systems has reached fruition with the launch of DAWSON (Docket Access Within a Secure Online Network) at the end of 2020. Her colleagues are grateful for her past achievements and look forward to benefiting from her continuing contributions to the Court and to the profession. They congratulate her on her well-earned Distinguished Service Award. ■