Singleton v. Commissioner
439 U.S. 940 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Singleton v. Commissioner, 439 U.S. 940 (1978)

Singleton v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

No. 78-78

Decided October 30, 1978

439 U.S. 940

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL and MR. JUSTICE POWELL join, dissenting.

The issue in this federal income tax case is whether a cash distribution that petitioner husband (hereafter petitioner) received in 1965 with respect to his shares in Capital Southwest Corporation (CSW) was taxable to him as a dividend, as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held, or whether that distribution was a return of capital, and therefore not taxable, as the Tax Court held. I regard the issue as of sufficient importance in the administration of the income tax laws to justify review here, and I dissent from the Court's failure to grant certiorari.

Primary Holding
Simply denying a writ of certiorari should not be construed to imply an opinion on the merits of a case for which it is denied.
Facts
In an action against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Singleton argued that a cash distribution that he had received from Capital Southwest Corporation should not be deemed taxable because it was a return of capital. In response, the Commissioner argued that it was taxable because it was a dividend, and the lower courts agreed. Singleton sought a writ of certioriari from the Supreme Court.

Opinions

Majority

  • John Paul Stevens (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

The meaning of a denial of a writ of certiorari is that fewer than four members of the Court felt that it was appropriate to review a decision of the lower court within the Supreme Court's judicial discretion. Neither the Court in general nor the individual Justices are required to issue justifications or explanations for why certiorari should be or should not be granted in certain cases. In contrast to the assertions of the dissent, "glamor and emotion" are not issues that the Court ever considers when determining whether a case merits review. In this instance, the lack of a circuit split on the issue amply justifies withholding certiorari.

Dissent

  • Harry Andrew Blackmun (Author)
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.

The Supreme Court should not refrain from considering appeals of complicated tax cases just because they lack glamor and emotion. In denying the writ of certiorari, the Justices may have improperly recalled the tangled discussions over arguments and rearguments in U.S. v. Foster Lumber Co. (1976) and Laing v. U.S. (1976).

Case Commentary

Many justices have begun to write opinions dissenting from denials of certiorari, in which they do outline their views on the merits of the case while discussing why the court should review it.

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