Law

Mission Finances, Part 2 [edited 8/26/2011]

August 25, 2011 | 22 comments
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Pop quiz: when you think “Mormons” and “US Supreme Court,” what do you think? (The correct answer is, of course, Reynolds.) For many of us, though, another... Read more »

What If President Monson Endorsed Mitt Romney?

July 19, 2011 | 37 comments
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What If President Monson Endorsed Mitt Romney?

In his talk at the close of the April 2008 General Conference, President Monson talked about the blessing we had received, both as members of the Church and, specifically, over the course of the conference. He ended his talk with counsel: parents are to love and cherish their children, youth are to keep the commandments, those who can attend the temple should, and we should all be aware of each other’s needs. But what if, in closing his remarks, President Monson had said, “My dear brothers and sisters, I feel strongly that Mitt Romney is the best person to... Read more »

The Tax Exemption and the Church’s Political Leanings

July 18, 2011 | 28 comments
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In light of the Church’s recent policy statement banning some Church authorities from endorsing candidates, and the speculation that the Church’s political neutrality derives from its desire to stay tax-exempt, I thought I’d present a brief primer on the tax exemption. The Revenue Act of 1894 probably represents the birth of the modern federal income tax. An inauspicious birth, to be sure–it was struck down as unconstitutional in 1895–but the birth, nonetheless. True, it was enacted 19 years before the 16th Amendment permitted direct taxation (whatever that is), but it set the stage for the income tax to come.... Read more »

The Parable of the Talented Endowment Tax

July 14, 2011 | 51 comments
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Governments impose taxes in order to raise revenue that, in turn, funds government function and services. In designing a tax system, tax theorists generally try to create provisions that will raise revenue without significantly altering taxpayers’ economic choices. That is, ideally, taxpayers will act in approximately the same way as they would have in a world without tax. But we can’t hit the ideal. The income tax alters people’s actions, because it alters the price calculus. One way is in our work-leisure decisions. Assume with me that I earn $10 an hour. That said, I enjoy not working, too–my... Read more »

Summer 2011 Syllabus

July 8, 2011 | 31 comments
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Part of my job as a law professor is to model to students what a transactional attorney does. As part of that, I include in my syllabus a list of things media that they ought to consume in order to understand the world a business lawyer functions in. The list is not exhaustive, by any means, nor should they necessarily read or listen to all of it, but it provides a slice of intelligent commentary on the world I’m teaching them how to enter. If you were preparing people to do what you do, what resources would you recommend?... Read more »

Times & Seasons Welcomes Sam Brunson

July 6, 2011 | 4 comments
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Times & Seasons is excited to introduce Sam Brunson as our latest guest blogger.  Sam grew up in the suburbs of San Diego and served a Brazilian mission what seems like a millennium ago.  He went to BYU as an undergrad and found that a freshman saxophone performance major made his eventual English major look like a practical choice.   After toying with teaching critical theory or becoming an author, he did what all good English majors do and chose law school.  At Columbia, he met his wife, got a degree, and got a job as a tax associate... Read more »

Polygamy, Natural Law, and Imperialism

March 2, 2010 | 18 comments
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I have been researching Reynolds v. United States (1879), the Supreme Court’s first polygamy case, on and off for several years.  For those who are interested, my paper on the topic is now available for download at SSRN.  Reynolds is an important case in American constitutional history, because was the first time the U.S. Supreme Court ever passed on the meaning of the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of religion.  Historians have generally situated the case within the context of the post-Civil War politics of Reconstruction.  The anti-polygamy crusade kicked off by Reynolds is seen as an extension of... Read more »

The Doctrine of Revelatory Justiciability

October 12, 2009 | 18 comments
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A good friend, while studying constitutional law for the bar exam this summer, emailed me some thoughts he scribbled down when he should have been hacking away at a few more MBE questions on judicial review. Instead, however, he hammered out a constitutional analysis on the justiciability of prayers.  You see, in case you weren’t aware, in order to receive an answer to a prayer, one’s prayer must involve a “case or controversy” that is fit for review. So, without further adieu, allow me to present the doctrine of revelatory justiciability (a.k.a., what studying for the bar does to... Read more »

The Evolution of Excommunication

July 30, 2009 | 51 comments
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I recently went through every version of the Church Handbook of Instructions, looking at what they have to say about the operation of church courts and how it has changed over time. Read more »

Explaining the Puzzle of Cross-State Differences in Bankruptcy Rates

June 30, 2009 | 39 comments
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Bankruptcy rates vary alot across states.  With a fairly simple statistical model, Lars Lefgren and I explain about 70% of these differences in a paper just published in the Journal of Law and Economics.   For cross sectional work using survey data, where you are looking across states at a point in time, explaining 70% is pretty darn impressive. Read more »

Are Gated Communities Moral?

May 27, 2009 | 58 comments
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When my wife and I talked with our missionary son recently, he said he was glad to be in Carson City, Nevada, instead of Las Vegas. When I asked why, he said: Gated Communities. Read more »

Bye-bye, Bybee?

April 25, 2009 | 114 comments
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A week ago, the New York Times joined the growing chorus of commenters calling for Judge Jay Bybee’s impeachment. Is impeachment really going to happen? And what should we think about the issue? Read more »

Mormons as Minorities

April 16, 2009 | 3 comments
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Today I gave a presentation to the William & Mary chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Society on “Mormons as Minorities” in which I discuss some of my research on Mormon legal and political history (and other stuff). If you are interested, you can listen to the presentation here. Read more »

Conscience in the Obama Era

April 15, 2009 | 50 comments
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I linked yesterday on the sidebar to Stanley Fish’s latest editorial in the New York Times, which takes as its occasion the possibility that President Obama will revoke the “conscience clause” allowing health care providers the right to refuse to provide certain services. I thought I’d add a few thoughts here.* Read more »

Contemplating Missionary Work in Cuba

April 14, 2009 | 47 comments
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The Obama administration announced yesterday that it is easing a handful of restrictions imposed by the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Among other things, Cuban-Americans will now be allowed to travel to Cuba as much as they like and will be free to send money and gifts to friends and relatives without securing travel or export licenses from the Treasury or the Commerce Department. Read more »

What I Learned about Mormon Courts (and the Writing of Mormon History)

April 13, 2009 | 17 comments
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For those who are interested in Mormon legal history, my article “Preaching to the Court House and Judging in the Temple” was just published in the most recent issue of the BYU Law Review. (You can download a copy of the article here.) This article provides my own take on the rise and fall of civil cases in church courts in the nineteenth-century. Of course the story of how nineteenth-century Mormons took lawsuits over broken contracts, wandering cows, disputed property lines, and the like to their local bishops has been told before, most elaborately in Ed Firmage and Collin... Read more »

The Double-Minded Essence of Mormonism

April 8, 2009 | 16 comments
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A while ago I was reading some sermons from the 1880s in the Journal of Discourses.  The 1880s, of course, is the decade when the anti-polygamy crusades were at their most intense.  Thousands of Mormons were incarcerated, the Brethren were in hiding from the law much of the time, and every time you turned around there was a new law confiscating Mormon property or disenfranchising Mormon voters.  Hence, I was surprised to come across a sermon in which George Q. Cannon spoke unironically of his admiration for George Edmunds.  Edmunds was a Republican Senator from Vermont, and the chief... Read more »

When is Sin Tax a Sin?

April 2, 2009 | 70 comments
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The new tobacco tax in the United States took effect yesterday, which tripled the amount of tax collected on each pack of cigarrettes, and probably raising the cost of a pack to as much as $9. The tax is the single largest increase in tobacco taxes in history. For an LDS audience, this probably seems all fine and good. You aren’t likely to complain about a sin tax if you aren’t committing that sin. And, to be honest, its hard to imagine a sin tax that LDS Church members would be particularly vulnerable to (perhaps ice cream?) But even... Read more »

Adultery in Law

March 10, 2009 | 70 comments
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I had a buddy in high school who was a fierce Navajo patriot. He bitterly resented what had become of his people. I needled him once on how much better off the Navajo were now with roads, and medicines, and aqueducts, and things. His voice got strangled and he could hardly say anything. He finally choked this out: “before you white men came, when we caught an adulterer we had horses drag him to death.” Read more »

Garment Rights?

March 5, 2009 | 125 comments
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Do we have a right to wear garments? If we do, how far does that right go? What , kind of right is it? Is it a human right? Or a legal one that might disappear and reappear as we pass national boundaries? Read more »

A New Book for the Mormon Canon

February 22, 2009 | 7 comments
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There are a number of Mormon pamphlets and books that have achieved a kind of semi-canonical status within Mormon studies. Everyone agrees, for example, that Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology or John Taylor’s Mediation and Atonement are key texts for understanding nineteenth Mormon thought. If any evidence is needed, both texts, I believe, are still in print. At the very least both have produced modern reprints. I have a proposed addition to the canon, George Q. Cannon’s A Review of the Decision of the Supreme Court in the Case of Geo. Reynolds v. the United... Read more »

Commentary on 1 Ne. 17, concluded

February 3, 2009 | 2 comments
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Continuing part 1 , part 2, and part 3. Nephi’s response to his brothers directly attacks their understanding of Moses’s significance. Read more »

The Gospel and Immigration

November 17, 2008 | 108 comments
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The Gospel and Immigration

A High Priest I know is in crisis. He is an immigrant who, like many other Church members, came to the US without a visa, according to what I understand of the situation. After arriving here he joined the Church, and eventually fell in love and married a U.S. Citizen, a wonderful, faithful Church member. This situation would normally put him on track for a green card and U.S. citizenship. But this brother is facing deportation, and his ward and stake are praying for a miracle that will keep him here in the United States. Read more »

What Should Mormons Do?

November 12, 2008 | 44 comments
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The Associated Press reported yesterday that Mormon employees at the University of Phoenix benefited from discrimination based on religion, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The University settled the suit, paying $1.9 million to 52 employees (an average of more than $36,000 each!) and agreeing to a “zero-tolerance” policy to religious discrimination, but did not admit wrongdoing. What’s up with that? Read more »

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