With a light touch, some refreshing clarity and a fond citation to Mark Twain, Tax Court Judge Mark Holmes in a decision Wednesday demonstrates once more his mastery of the art of judicial writing.
Holmes, as is his wont, brings the reader right into the narrative from the start:
“This case comes to us from a riverboat casino on the lower Mississippi,” Holmes begins. “In 1991 Robert Heitmeier saw a lucrative opportunity in the newly legalized riverboat-gambling industry of New Orleans.”
See how we are immediately immersed in a colorful corner of the real, touchable world. Holmes does not bog down in tax arcana; first, he sets the stage. These are people he’s writing about, not mere abstractions. He offers a few puns, on the order of saying the IRS commissioner wanted to “sink his shelter,” and he takes the time to explain the difference between a captain and a riverboat pilot.
“Captaining is good work,” Holmes writes, “but piloting--ah, ‘a pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth.’”
That’s a citation to Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. Now, strictly speaking, this is all ornamentation and outside the necessary scope of the decision, but it makes the business end of the opinion go down easier. Suits & Sentences says, nicely done.