Wiedenbeck named to Zumbalen professorship

Peter J. Wiedenbeck, J.D., associate dean of faculty and professor in the School of Law, has been named the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor of the Law of Property.

Peter Wiedenbeck
Peter Wiedenbeck

The announcement was made by Joel Seligman, J.D., dean of the law school and the Ethan A.H. Shepley University Professor. The formal installation will be Feb. 27 in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom in Anheuser-Busch Hall.

Zumbalen served as a law professor at the University from 1918-1928 and as the University’s legal adviser and secretary treasurer.

Wiedenbeck will succeed David M. Becker, J.D., as the Zumbalen professor. Becker will become the Zumbalen professor emeritus and will continue as associate dean of external relations and as a half-time faculty member beginning in the 2004-05 academic year.

“Peter does it all,” Seligman said. “He has been a leading scholar — particularly in the area of employee benefits — an extraordinarily effective classroom teacher, an outstanding committee chair and now associate dean, as well as a wonderful colleague.

“His enthusiasm and commitment make him an ideal candidate for the Zumbalen professorship.”

Wiedenbeck, an expert in the areas of federal income taxation and regulation of employee benefit plans, is the author of numerous articles and two casebooks, Cases and Materials on Employee Benefits and Cases and Materials on Partnership Taxation.

He recently completed a book on the policy basis of federal labor law regulation of employee pension and welfare benefit plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA in the Courts will be published by the Federal Judicial Center and distributed to federal judges later this year.

In collaboration with Lee Epstein, Ph.D., the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Political Science in Arts & Sciences and professor of law, and Nancy Staudt, J.D., professor of law, Wiedenbeck is working on an interdisciplinary empirical study of statutory interpretation, focusing on the U.S. Supreme Court’s handling of the Internal Revenue Code.

The project’s goal is to determine what factors influence the high court’s approach to statutory interpretation in tax cases, and in particular to assess the relative contributions of such factors as the traditional rules of statutory construction, tax policy considerations, policy preferences of the justices, as well as case-specific factors such as the identity of the taxpayer and the purpose of the transaction.

Additional information about the project is available in the recent article, “Judging Statutes: Thoughts on Statutory Interpretation and Notes for a Project on the Internal Revenue Code,” in volume 13 of the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy.

Named “Teacher of the Year” three times by the Student Bar Association, Wiedenbeck emphasizes to his students the underlying social policies shaping the revenue system and explains how the conflicts arising from the policies engender recurrent, but largely predictable, tax law changes.

Wiedenbeck has chaired the University’s Judicial Board and was a faculty representative to the University’s Benefits Committee.

He has chaired the Faculty Appointments Committee in the law school and was a member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Appointment of the Dean of the School of Law (1997-99).

Wiedenbeck earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Toronto in 1976 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1979.

He spent the next few years practicing law with Washington, D.C., firm Patton, Boggs & Blow, specializing in federal tax legislation and tax policy.

In 1982, Wiedenbeck began teaching at the University of Missouri School of Law. After serving as a visiting professor of law at Cornell University in 1989, he joined Washington University in 1990.