Tax Prof Spotlight: Maureen Cavanaugh
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Maureen Cavanaugh has followed a non-traditional path in becoming one of the leading tax scholars and teachers of her generation. She is leaving her tenured post at Washington & Lee for Penn State-Dickinson and shares with us her story. Let me first fill in some background of her journey.
Professor Cavanaugh earned a B.A. from Swarthmore, M.A. & Ph.D. from Cornell, and (15 years later, in 1995) J.D. from Minnesota, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Law & Inequality. She practiced with Coopers & Lybrand (Minneapolis & Philadelphia) for two years before joining the faculty at Washington & Lee, where she has won numerous research and teaching plaudits. She served as Alumni Teaching Fellow (2001-02) and John W. Elrod Law Alumni Association Fellow in Teaching Excellence (2002-03). Professor Cavanaugh has written several important articles, including:
• Tax as Gatekeeper, Why Company Stock Is Not Worth the Money, 23 Va. Tax Rev. 365 (2003)
• On the Road To Incoherence: Congress, Economics, and Taxes, 49 UCLA L. Rev. 685 (2002)
• Order in Multiplicity: Aristotle on Text, Context, and the Rule of Law, 79 N.C. L. Rev. 577 (2001)
Professor Cavanaugh picks up the story:
My education in and teaching of Classics (Greek, Latin, ancient history, archaeology) proceeded until I had to interrupt it to run a rental real estate firm and do elder care after my aunt had her first massive stroke. Hence my interest in employee benefits -- first hand experience.
Family obligations have a way of not being "neat" in terms of time obligations or commitments, so when all was said and done, it seemed eminently more practical for me to go to law school rather than go back into the ever shrinking classics job market (since finding a job in the same area as my husband has proved challenging throughout our careers post-college). Tax turned out to be like Classics in its need to look at everything; the Code is more like Greek inscriptions (the subject of my dissertation) than anything else in law school so it was a natural "fit." (I did get to update and revise my doctoral dissertation, Eleusis and Athens: Documents in Finance, Religion and Politics in the Fifth Century B.C. (1996), for publication before law school and complete the final editorial work on it during law school. It turns out that my book was to be my first look at ancient finance and taxation while my law school note was the beginning of my interest in what Aristotle might add to modern legal discourse.)
After law school, I joined Coopers & Lybrand, a choice dictated in part by the nature of tax practice in Minneapolis and because the judge I was to clerk for was diagnosed with a brain tumor (it is hard to complain about the need to look for a job when the first woman Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Judge is dying of a brain tumor!). Practice was fun but, as everyone knows, there is no time for writing -- which I found I had been able to do with my book even in law school.
I got my first job in teaching tax at W&L in 1998 and received tenure there in 2002. The desire to live with my husband who works in the D.C. area (never having found a satisfactory job closer) and the possibility of being at a first-rate research university (useful for my inter-disciplinary work) has me leaving W&L to join Penn State-Dickinson. The first part of my inter-disciplinary work combining my interest in tax and antiquity is my article on Athenian Taxation, Democracy, Equality, and Taxes, 54 Ala. Law Rev. 415 (2003), cited by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning Reporter David Cay Johnston in his April 18th article, A Taxation Policy to Make John Stuart Mill Weep [blogged here]. I am currently working on an article on Roman taxation.
Carlisle is quite a bit closer to D.C. and many new faculty have spousal connections there, so the administration is understanding. The impending move (at least part of the Law School will move to University Park, it now appears, although nothing is definite at this moment) is so far in the future as to require discounting its present value to zero (and since my husband works for one of the companies owned by the major airlines, the nature of that business will probably be quite different in 5 years.). In the meantime, we will enjoy living together under the same roof and wait and see what the future brings.