Dean Donald Tobin Takes Hands-On Approach to Supporting Clinical Law Program
Dean Tobin (center right) assists a client (left) with students James Kelly-Lieb and Fiona Nguyen.
Since 2011, Maryland Carey Law students have helped individuals resolve federal and state tax issues through its Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Student attorneys in the LITC advocate on behalf of low-income taxpayers to ensure they are treated fairly within the tax system. The majority of the semester is spent negotiating settlements, defending against IRS and state tax audits, helping taxpayers file back tax returns to comply with federal and state tax laws, educating communities on tax law, and representing clients in the U.S. Tax Court. The LITC also regularly participates in the U.S. Tax Court’s Baltimore docket call, where student attorneys provide brief legal advice to unrepresented litigants appearing before the U.S. Tax Court.
When Donald Tobin became Dean in 2014, he brought with him his expertise as a leading voice on tax laws and policy, and so the perfect opportunity arose: Dean Tobin was recruited to co-teach the LITC each fall with Professor Beverly Winstead. Whether providing valuable legal advice to clients, helping student attorneys negotiate tax settlements, or defending taxpayers during audits, Dean Tobin has exemplified the power that lawyers and clinical law students have to make change in the world.
Dean Tobin has had a great impact on students and clients. Over the years, he has worked alongside dozens of student attorneys to help them develop the skills necessary to resolve tax disputes and other issues that plague low-income communities. His litigation experience at the Department of Justice Tax Division brings unique insights and perspectives he draws on to support students in the courtroom. One of those students was 3L Chris Harris, whom Tobin supervised throughout his client’s tax trial. Harris appreciated “the great privilege of learning from such an accomplished and experienced attorney” during his time in the LITC Clinic. The impact on Harris ran deep. “Before this, I could say that I had a strong interest in tax, but after working with Dean Tobin in trial, my passion in tax law was solidified,” said Harris.
Dean Tobin’s experiences in the LITC have also enabled him to advocate for systemic change on the state level. In 2011, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) began to assist the Comptroller of Maryland collect outstanding state tax liabilities by placing an MVA hold on a taxpayer’s account, including individual and business taxpayers. While the MVA hold is in place, taxpayers are not able to renew their driver’s license, receive replacement or substitute tags, or renew their vehicle registration, which all impact their ability to work, get to the doctor, or even the grocery store. When Dean Tobin recognized how this law hurt LITC clients, he went to Annapolis and advocated for changes to the law.
“Students are really lucky to have such an experienced attorney and brilliant tax mind to learn from,” says his co-teacher Prof. Winstead. As the LITC looks to its tenth year at Maryland Carey Law, Dean Tobin shows no signs of slowing down in his commitment to the clinic.