The J. Edgar Murdock Inn of Court was named in honor of a member
of predecessors to the United States Tax Court (
click on "Tax Court Judges") whose service extended over a period
of important historical events for the Court. The Court was created
as the Board of Tax Appeals in 1924. Judge Murdock served as
Chairman of the Board of Tax Appeals in 1941 and 1942. In 1942, the
Tax Court of the United States succeeded the Board of Tax Appeals,
and Judge Murdock served as Presiding Judge from 1942 to 1945 and
as Chief Judge from 1955 to 1961. He served as a senior judge on
recall from June 30, 1961, until December 31, 1968. He died on May
Judge Murdock's career was devoted to public service. A native
of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, he graduated from Princeton University
in 1916 and served as Captain in the United States Army in France
during World War I. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in
action. After receiving his law degree from the University of
Pittsburgh and being admitted to the Pennsylvania Ear in 1921, he
served as First Assistant District Attorney for Westmoreland
County, Pennsylvania, until 1926. On June 9, 1926, President
Coolidge appointed "Ned" Murdock to an term on the Board of Tax
Appeals. Then age 32, he was the youngest person in the Court's
history ever to be appointed Judge. He was reappointed for three
additional 12-year terms.
The J. Edgar Murdock Award is from time to time bestowed by the
Judges upon persons who render outstanding service to the United
States Tax Court.
Judge Murdock was noted for his brevity and terse opinions. His
first opinion, publisher, July 30, 1926, covered one page. Burch v.
Commissioner, 4 B.T.A. 604. In Gensinger v. Commissioner, 18
T.C. 122, 133 (1952), Judge Murdock wrote, "It seems incongruous to
hold the corporation and the petitioner to greater knowledge of the
tax law than the Commissioner himself has demonstrated in this
case." In D'Alise v. Commissioner, 21 T.C. 511 (1954),
appears the most succinct head note in all the Tax Court reports.
It reads: "Fraud--Proof woefully inadequate."
A story that may or may not be entirely accurate relates to a
taxpayer nearing the close of his trial who exclaimed, "As God is
my Judge, I do not owe this tax." Judge Murdock is reputed to have
said, "He's not. I am. You do."
In Suggestions Written for the Benefit of New Tax Court
Judges, he wrote:
Most people prefer to learn only from experience, their own
experience. Indeed, it is doubtful whether experience can be
communicated successfully. Certainly advice is more gladly and more
frequently given than followed on this Court. [68 T.C. XI
The finest tribute to Judge Murdock appears in the case of
American Coast Line v. Commissioner, 159 F.2d 665, 669 (2d
Cir.1947), an opinion written by the late Judge Learned Hand of the
Second Circuit court of Appeals. He said:
It is of course not our province to fix the distribution of
judicial power; least of all are we in a position to measure the
higher authority which the Tax court's constant occupation in its
special field should give to its rulings, as; distinct from ours in
our sprawling jurisdiction. We can think of no legal question as to
which we ought more readily yield than that at bar; in that thicket
of verbiage, through which we have been forced to cut a way, it
must surely be an advantage to have been familiar with other
tangles of the same general sort; and, while it is the pleasure of
Congress to express itself, may well be grateful that we are
permitted to put our hand into those of accredited pathfinders.
Judge Murdock wrote the opinion in the Tax court. He was indeed
a "pathfinder" with a pioneering spirit.
The foregoing information concerning Judge Murdock, and more, is
published IN MEMORIAM, 68 T.C. V (1977).