Section of Taxation Publications

VOL. 61
NO. 3

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Note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the article as published in The Tax Lawyer. Author citations have been omitted for brevity. Tax Section members may read the article in its entirety in Adobe Acrobat format.

2008 Erwin L. Griswold Lecture Before the American College of Tax Counsel:
Constancy and Change in Our Federal Tax System

Lawrence B. Gibbs*

*Miller & Chevalier Chartered


The opportunity to deliver this year’s Griswold Lecture is an honor for which I thank the officers and Board of Regents of the American College of Tax Counsel. My introduction to Dean Griswold was in law school where quite literally after studying his casebook on federal taxation, I decided to become a tax lawyer. For me, he was a living legend with distinguished careers in academia, government service, and private practice. After I had admired him from afar for many years, he invited me to lunch shortly after I left the Service in 1989, and we traded lunches periodically thereafter. I still recall his penetrating eyes, his congeniality and graciousness, and the breadth and depth of his knowledge of the law in general and the tax law in particular. My last conversation with Dean Griswold was about a tax case I had involving the spendthrift provisions of a trust agreement that had been written in the 1930s. In our conversation, he never mentioned his 1936 seminal work entitled Spendthrift Trusts. When I brought it up, he said with a twinkle in his eye that I apparently had done my homework, and then from memory he cited two authorities, a case and a law review article, that helped me resolve the issue with the Service’s National Office.

In his autobiography, Dean Griswold tells the story that after completing the initial manuscript for his casebook on federal taxation, he submitted it to several publishers. However, none would publish it because, they said, there was no market for a casebook limited to federal taxation. As incomprehensible as the story may sound to us who are involved in the federal taxation area today, it is even more astonishing that these events took place only 70 years ago. What changes have taken place in our tax system, in our national economy, and in the world economy over these last seven decades. And what changes are poised to take place in the foreseeable future. Hence, the subject of my remarks today, “Constancy and Change in Our Federal Tax System.”


Published by the
American Bar Association Section of Taxation
in Collaboration with the
Georgetown University Law Center


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