After graduating cum laude in June of 1948, Morin was sworn in to the Massachusetts Bar on October 14th and joined his father and brothers at Morin & Morin, housed in a small office located at 44 School Street in the shadow of the Old City Hall. As Morin later recounted, “it was a family firm, and in those days, you took what came in the door. You became an expert in a hurry. So I tried cases in the tax court and got to be a good tax lawyer, maybe one of the best in the city of Boston.”
At the outset of his practice, he was lecturing on estate and gift taxation at B.U. One of his students was William Schwartz, who became Dean of the law school some thirty years later when Charles’ youngest son was enrolled there. Morin regarded Schwartz as “the smartest lawyer I ever met,” and confided to his son that Schwartz “had been gracious enough to wait until the class was over to tell me where I made my mistakes.”
When the law school was moved from Ashburton Place to the main campus on Commonwealth Avenue, Morin stopped lecturing and “got serious about the practice of law.”
According to Morin, his specialty was “anything that came in the door,” and he meant it literally. In one instance, he was hired by a Portuguese potato farmer from Fall River to defend him against a prosecution by the I.R.S. for tax evasion. At their initial meeting, Morin had driven to the farmer’s home, and upon reaching the front door, observed that the door was nailed shut. The farmer tapped on the window and motioned him to the back door into the kitchen, where the farmer explained that in the Portuguese community the only people who come to the front door are salesmen and tax collectors.
So the story went, in cleaning out the ash bin at the bottom of his chimney, the farmer had discovered a tin box containing a large sum of cash. He had dutifully reported the cash as income on his tax return (a fact that earned him Morin’s immediate respect, almost reverence). In response, the Service sought to audit him for prior years under the theory that this “sudden windfall” was an attempt to avoid taxes on prior years’ income.
At the trial, Morin employed the “cash hoard” defense, in which the taxpayer must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he did, indeed, discover a cash hoard. With his client on the witness stand, he produced the dusty old ash bin from a paper bag (creating, with intent, a thick gray cloud of dust in the courtroom) and sought to have the farmer identify it so that it would be admitted into evidence.
The tax court judge, Marian Herron, loudly objected. “I’m not taking that filthy old thing back to Washington with me!” she yelled.
Morin was insistent. “Your honor, you have no choice, it’s evidence!”
Judge Herron threatened Morin with contempt of court. Morin’s reply: “If you refuse to accept this into evidence, you cannot find me in as much contempt as I will have for this court!”
The judge relented, as she was compelled to do. At the end of the session, as Morin was leaving the courthouse via a back hallway, Judge Herron entered the corridor from her chambers, dusty paper bag in hand.
“Mr. Morin,” the federal tax court judge said to him as they walked along, “has anyone ever told you you look like Clark Gable?”
Months following the trial, Judge Herron ruled in his client’s favor.
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Tags: boston university, cash hoard, charles morin, IRS, tax court, william schwartz