That what former LAT horse-racing reporter Bill Christine claims in appealing a lower-court decision concerning a $4,000 tax bill. In his filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Christine says that Judge Robert Wherry "slept through various stages of the trial" and at one point had to be awakened by a clerk. Wherry upheld most of the IRS ruling that disallowed $21,000 in deductions for home office and unreimbursed employee business expenses claimed for 2005 (gives you an idea of how slow-moving these things can be). Here's what Christine wrote:
At least twice during the trial, an attorney for the [IRS] approached the bench, with documents to be entered in evidence, even though the sleeping judge was not in a lucid position to give her permission to do so.
As explained by Bill Barrett on his Informer blog at Forbes, all Tax Court judges are based in Washington, but they hold trials without a jury in other cities as needed. Wherry heard Christine's case last year in L.A. The appeal has any number of zany elements, such as whether dry cleaning expenses could be deducted. Wherry said no, but Christine offered a less obvious take:
Horses, which were the centerpieces of Mr. Christine's journalistic assignments during 2005, are dirty, and the barns they inhabit are dirty by their very nature. Being around horses gets clothes dirty and appropriate clothes are required for entry to the Turf Clubs at various racetracks, where many owners and trainers of horses regularly congregate and where they made themselves available for interviews by Mr. Christine as he reported his newspaper stories.
The IRS is supposed to respond next month, at which point, the appellate court could schedule a hearing before a three-judge panel.