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Dubious Donation

Although it is often told as a joke, I always felt sorry for the poor saps who thought they had bought the Brooklyn Bridge. My scorn was reserved for the scoundrels who sold it to them. Not only had they tried to enrich themselves at the expense of innocents, they besmirched--however slightly--an iconic piece of America in the process.

Timothy McVeigh's lawyer tried to do something of the same, but in November 2007 the U.S. Tax Court wouldn't let him get away with it. Stephen Jones was the court-appointed lawyer for McVeigh, who was convicted and executed for blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 1995, killing 168 people including many children. It remains the worst case of domestic terrorism in our history and an iconic event for thousands still.

Thus, even if Jones had been able to overturn the fundamental rule that a client's legal files belong to the client, he would still have failed in his attempt to exploit his accidental role as the attorney of the Oklahoma City Bomber.

The law may never be able to protect hapless purchasers of the Brooklyn Bridge, and it is difficult to conjure up too much sympathy for them. But with the case of Jones v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue on the books, the taxpayers are a bit safer from ethically numbed lawyers who would exploit both them and their clients.


Bruce D. Collins

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