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Daniel Halperin is First Holder of Martin D. Ginsburg Chair

January 25, 2013 — The event was, as Professor Stephen B. Cohen put it, “the second inauguration” Washington had seen in a week. This one was to install Visiting Professor Daniel Halperin as the first holder of Georgetown Law’s Martin D. Ginsburg Chair in Taxation — and in the process to honor two giants in the field.

 “Marty Ginsburg was without question the greatest expert ever on the law of corporate taxation,” Cohen said of his late colleague, who taught tax law to Georgetown Law students for three decades before his death in 2010. 

“Tax lawyers continue to treat his interpretations of the tax law as authoritative — perhaps even more authoritative, with apologies to Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg [Marty’s wife]— than the pronouncements of the Supreme Court,” Cohen joked. 

 Halperin, a tax policy expert who served on the Georgetown Law faculty from 1981 to 1996 before becoming the Stanley S. Surrey Professor at Harvard Law, earned equally high praise. “I was much more his student than I was his co-teacher. …” said Cohen, who once led a tax policy seminar with Halperin. “I have learned more from him than any other teacher or colleague I’ve ever known.”

Halperin has worked in private practice and in government, serving as deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Treasury during the Carter Administration. His 1986 law review article on taxing the time value of money “profoundly altered our fundamental understandings” of the subject and made him one of the leading academic minds of his time, Cohen noted.

Halperin’s own speech was a personal and professional tribute to Ginsburg, citing his abilities as a lawyer and professor. “Marty had no equal as a tax planner…” he said. “The gold standard in drafting tax legislation as expressed by generations of government lawyers was to design a rule that Marty could not find a way to avoid.”

Justice Ginsburg spoke briefly at the end of the event, describing how one of Professor Ginsburg’s favorite tax clients, H. Ross Perot, decided to establish a chair named after him — and told him to pick the school. Luckily, Professor Ginsburg chose Georgetown. “This is a very special time,” she said.

 

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