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Marie Garibaldi

When you reach my age, inevitably there comes sad new when you get to the obituary page. Two weeks ago, I learned in The New York Times that an old acquaintance, Marie Garibaldi, had passed away at 81: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/20/nyregion/marie-garibaldi-first-woman-on-new-jersey-supreme-court-dies-at-81.html?_r=0

Marie had a distinguished career as a trial attorney in the New York Regional Counsel’s Office of the IRS, in private practice, and as a Municipal Court judge before her appointment as the first woman to the New Jersey Supreme Court. During her 18 years of distinguished service Justice Garibaldi authored 225 opinions. She also was the first woman elected president of the New Jersey Bar Association. Marie was a graduate of Connecticut College, Columbia Law School (along with her classmate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and New York University Law School where she received a Masters of Law in Taxation.

My wife, Mary-Margaret, and I met Marie through the late Peter Aslanides, a fellow graduate of Georgetown University Law School, who served with Marie in the IRS Counsel’s Office and briefly in private practice. Marie was great company who possessed a fine sense of humor that showed itself in the following story.

Mr. Five Percent

Upon her graduation from Columbia University Law School in 1959, Marie Garibaldi quickly found herself immersed in litigating tax fraud cases for the IRS in Manhattan. One such case resulted from a massive investigation of the under-reporting of tip revenue by New York City waiters and bartenders. Keep in mind that this was in the infancy days of credit cards when most restaurant and bar bills were paid in cash. In those good old cash days, both the restaurants and the help were under-reporting income. Lacking a credit card paper trail the IRS had a difficult time proving its cases.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, Marie had a clear understanding of what was going on in one of the first cases dumped in her lap. The matter at issue involved a waiter employed at the prestigious Plaza Hotel on Central Park South, who preposterously claimed that his average tip was only five percent as opposed to the 15 percent rate that Marie, and everyone else in New York, was accustomed to tipping. The waiter incredulously claimed that some of the Plaza’s patrons never left a tip, while the tips of others were generous. Though the chutzpah of the waiter and his lawyer rankled Marie, the lack of a convincing paper trail and the pressure of her heavy trial docket weighed heavily towards settling the case at, yes, five percent.

The following year, upon the 25th wedding anniversary of her parents, Marie hosted a dinner party in their honor at the Plaza Hotel. And guess who happened to be the head waiter at the event, non-other than “Mr. Five Percent.” Marie described the food as delicious, the service exemplary, and overall as a wonderful evening for all involved with one exception. As the delightful occasion came to a close, the head waiter, who now recognized Marie, sheepishly approached her to present the bill. After she reviewed the bill, pen in hand, smiling, she looked up at the waiter and said, “As I recall you said that five percent was the average tip.” He swallowed hard, and said, “Yeah, that’s right, Mam.”

The just desserts had been served.  Read More 
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