Monday, May 17, 2021

Tax Forms Through History (#TaxForms)

Individuals' federal income taxes are due today. If you got yours in before the traditional April 15 deadline, good for you! If you're still not on top of it, an extension can give you till Oct. 15. 

Nearly everyone has filed a tax form, but how much have you thought about the forms? 

"For most taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service forms are the only connection the have with the tax laws enacted by the Congress."

Rep. J.J. Pickle, introducing Development of Federal Tax Forms by the Internal Revenue Service: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Oversight of the Committee on Ways and Means, 101st Cong. 5 (1989) [HeinOnline]

Tax forms can't just slapped together!

fans of typographic design should pause to appreciate just how difficult this project must be, which makes the result all the more impressive. These forms necessarily represent a collaboration between IRS lawyers (who have to make sure the forms are accurate relative to the ever-changing thicket of tax law), graphic designers (who have to create visual hierarchy & order while preserving an economical density of information), a warehouse of fact-checkers and proofreaders who have to make sure the forms are flawless before they head to the printer (can you imagine the costs of getting a form wrong?), and some chain of command that has approval over all of it.

Matthew Butterick, the best typography in the US federal government (May 13, 2021). (Haven't heard of Matthew Butterick? Don't miss out on his Typography for Lawyers (2d ed. 2015) [catalog record] [website].)

The IRS has posted an impressive collection of forms and publications. Sort by date to travel through history. For example, here are snippets for the tax years 1863 and 1918.

tax form 1863 


tax form 1918


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Check out a Book for #AAPI Heritage Month (or Perhaps for Summer Reading)

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, I'm highlighting an assortment of books in the law library and the UW system. 

You can find hundreds of books about Asia or Asian Americans, using the scholarly lenses of history, sociology, or political science—not to mention novels, poetry, and plays. I looked for a legal connection, and selected memoirs, biographies, and histories that seemed engaging enough that you might want to pick one up, perhaps when exams are over. Many, but not all, are written by Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders.

This list doesn't include books about the Japanese American incarceration during World War II—not because it's not an important topic, but just the opposite: we already have several blog posts on it.

montage of book jackets from 13 books

Adrienne Berard, Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South (2016) [ebook]

Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America (2013) [ebook]

Robert Chang, Disoriented: Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation-State (2000) [print] [ebook]

 Yves Dezalay & Bryant G. Garth, Asian Legal Revivals: Lawyers in the Shadow of Empire (2010) [ebook] [print]

Andrew Gyory, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (1998) [ebook] [ebook & HeinOnline] [print]

Robert Terry Hayashi, Haunted by Waters: A Journey Through Race and Place in the American West (2007) [ebook] [print]. "Using a wide range of materials that include memoirs, oral interviews, poetry, legal cases, letters, government documents, and even road signs, Robert Hayashi illustrates how Thomas Jefferson's vision of an agrarian, all white, and democratic West affected the Gem State's Nez Perce, Chinese, Shoshone, Mormon, and Japanese residents." 

Madeline Yuan-yin Hsu, The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (2015) [print]

Stephanie Hinnershitz, A Different Shade of Justice: Asian American Civil Rights in the South (2017) [ebook] [print]

Estelle T. Lau, Paper Families: Identity, Immigration Administration, and Chinese Exclusion (2006) [ebook]

Erika Lee, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (2003) [ebook] [print][print]

Eric Liu, The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker (1998) [print; temporary online access during COVID]

Michael W. McCann & George Lovell, Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism (2020) [ebook] (Authors teach at UW and UPS.)

Chris W. Merritt, The Coming Man from Canton: Chinese Experience in Montana, 1862-1943 (2017)  [ebook] [print]

Kim Park Nelson, Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, and Racial Exceptionalism (2015) [ebook]

Jonathan Y. Okamura, Raced to Death in 1920s Hawaiʻi: Injustice and Revenge in the Fukunaga Case (2019) [ebook] [print]

Yung-Yi Diana Pan, Incidental Racialization: Performative Assimilation in Law School (2017) [print]

John P. Rosa, Local Story: the Massie-Kahahawai Case and the Culture of History (2014) [ebook]

David E. Stannard, Honor Killing: How the Infamous "Massie Affair" Transformed Hawai'i (2005) [print; temporary online access during COVID]. 

David E. Stannard, Honor Killing: Race, Rape, and Clarence Darrow's Spectacular Last Case  (2006) [print] (The paperback edition has a slightly different title from the hardback's.)

Jose Antonio Vargas, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen  (2018) [print]

Michael Withey, Summary Execution: The Seattle Assassinations of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes (2018) [print] (Author is a Seattle lawyer.)

John R. Wunder, Gold Mountain Turned to Dust: Essays on the Legal History of the Chinese in the Nineteenth-Century American West (2018) [ebook] [print

Bruce I. Yamashita, Fighting Tradition: A Marine's Journey to Justice (2003) [print]. The book's website includes a brief (4:26) documentary.

Kenji Yoshino, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006) [print] [temporary online access]

Monday, May 3, 2021

More on Data and Supreme Court Justice names

In 2012, this blog discussed the popularity of the names of the Supreme Court Justices at the time.  With several new members on the Court since then, it's time for an update.

The following charts (prepared by author) show the popularity (by rank) of the first name of each Justice in the year of their birth and in 2019, based on data from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Source for birth years is Supreme Court's About the Court page

bar graph shows popularity by rank of the first names of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices in their year of birth: John Roberts, born 1955, rank 5; Clarence Thomas, born 1948, rank 87; Stephen Breyer, born 1938, rank 74; Samuel Alito, born 1950, rank 62; Sonia Sotomayor, born 1954, rank 377; Elena Kagan, born 1960, rank 470; Neil Gorsuch, born 1967, rank 200; Brett Kavanaugh, born 1965, rank 132; Amy Coney Barrett, born 1972, rank 5
Popularity of Justices' first names in years born

bar graph shows popularity by rank of the first names of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices in 2019 if the rank is 1,000 or higher: John Roberts, rank 28; Clarence Thomas, not ranked 1,000 or higher; Stephen Breyer, rank 311; Samuel Alito, rank 22; Sonia Sotomayor, not ranked 1,000 or higher; Elena Kagan, rank 60; Neil Gorsuch, rank 636; Brett Kavanaugh, rank 820; Amy Coney Barrett, rank 203
Popularity of Justices' first names in 2019

As with any dataset, it's interesting to see what patterns the data indicate:

  • Everyone's name was in the mainstream in the year they were born.
  • Only "Samuel" and "Elena" are more popular now than they were when the Justices were born.

Understanding the data is also critical.

  • Does the highly ranked "John" include variations such as "Johnny"?
    • No. In the SSA data, "John" and "Johnny" are each ranked separately as different names. "Jon," "Johnnie," and "Johnie" are also each ranked separately as different names. For that reason,'s list of most popular baby names combines spellings of similar names to reveal their "true popularity."

  • Do the name rankings reflect gender classifications?
    • Yes. The SSA data separates "male names" for those assigned or designated as male at birth and "female names" for those assigned or designated as female at birth in Social Security applications. For example, in 1972, "Amy" as a male name was ranked 952 and "Amy" as a female name was ranked 5.

  • How does the SSA collect this data?
    • The SSA explains the source of the data as follows: "All names are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States after 1879. Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data. For others who did apply, our records may not show the place of birth, and again their names are not included in our data. All data are from a 100% sample of our records on Social Security card applications as of March 2020."

  • How does the SSA rank the names? 
    • The SSA rankings for each year are based on the frequency of the male name or female name.  If two names have the same frequency, the SSA explains that the names are ranked in alphabetical order.  For example, in 2019, both "Alberto" and "Neil" had a frequency of 422, so "Alberto" received a rank of 635 and "Neil" received a rank of 636.

Here are some resources for understanding data:

Names can be powerful.  Here are some articles that discuss various implications of names:

Finally, for a fascinating look at how data and the law can intersect, see Making the Law Computable (2019) for a discussion of the Harvard Caselaw Access Project.