US Senate Committee on Finance: Tax Reform Options International Issues
Women in Tax: NYSBA presents Career Choices in Tax Law

Sandy Thomas: Harmonizing her Many Different Interests

 Sandy, wearing an orange shirt and blue jacket, is beaming while surrounded by her family.

Sandy Thomas did not start her legal career expecting to be at the forefront of enforcing her country’s tax laws.  In fact, when Sandy graduated from New Jersey’s Rutgers University School of Law in 1986 and started drafting claims for class action lawsuits as a law clerk at Hangley Connolly Epstein Chicco Foxmann and Ewing in Pennsylvania, a career in tax was the furthest thing from her mind.  Even when she went on to become Assistant Counsel to New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, she was not fully committed to a life in tax.  It wasn’t until her mentor, a big firm lawyer, suggested that she consider a career with the Crown Attorney’s office that she began to slowly move in this direction. 


Sandy began working as Counsel in the Department of Justice Canada, Criminal Prosecutions Section in 1994 primarily prosecuting offences under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as occasional matters arising under the Canadian Income Tax Act.  Now, as Counsel with Public Prosecutions Service of Canada since 2005 (previously a division of the Department of Justice), ninety-five percent of her practice consists of what is called “Revenue Prosecutions”.  This includes offences arising under the Income Tax, Excise Tax and Customs Acts.  These cases, typically, are fairly complex and lengthy.


Along with her responsibilities as Counsel on the Revenue Prosecutions Team, Sandy also acts as an Alternate Crown for Drug Treatment Court.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy this work because it is like a puzzle.  You have to do a lot of detective work to pull everything together.  It’s very rewarding for me to put together cases involving circumstantial evidence.  You have to really use your brain.


What would you be doing if you did not become a lawyer?


A Musician.  I both sing and play the piano.  A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I have an undergraduate degree in music.  I had every intention of working in the music business when I started the program, but realized quickly that many of the most talented people don’t earn a decent living being an entertainer.  However, I did carry this passion for the industry with me into law school. 

While in law school I sang jazz and show tunes with a Cabaret group called Le Noir Cabaret, based in Philadelphia, PA.  I planned on becoming an entertainment lawyer.  This didn’t happen, but I continue to perform occasionally. 

I actually have a performance coming on September 13, 2011.  I will be singing as part of a choir comprised of judges and lawyers at the Special Divine Interfaith Service held at the Church of Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto.  I'm really looking forward to it. 


Where do you see yourself professionally five years from now?

Hopefully, in a role where I can continue to be involved in public service.  Definitely, doing something where I am able to help people-as ideal as that may sound.


What advice would you give to a young lawyer or law student interested in working in tax?

From the perspective of a public prosecutor/litigator, I would let them know that they don’t need an extensive background in tax to work in this area. When I started at the Department of Justice I mainly prosecuted drug offences.  What is important is that you are a thorough, well-prepared litigator.  The investigators and other experts can assist you in understanding the technical aspects of each case.   


If you could have dinner with one person in history (no longer living), who would it be?

It’s hard to choose.  There are at least three people I would want on that list:  My father, the Honorable Julius Isaac and Michael Jackson.


My father because he was my hero.  I miss his counsel, wisdom and sense of humor.  The Honorable Justice Isaac because he was an incredible inspiration, role model and mentor to me as well as to other young minority lawyers in the court.  Michael Jackson, because he was a musical genius, a good person, a fabulous composer, dancer and a humanitarian.  Shall I go on? He was just incredible.


Describe your ideal vacation?

Lying on the beach in Tobago.  Reading and relaxing.   Taking in the scenery.  Looking at boats in the water.  All day.  Every day for at least a couple weeks. 


What book(s) are you reading now?

I just finished reading Midnight by Sister Souljah.  It’s a very good book.  It's written from the perspective of a Sudanese immigrant living in Brooklyn. 

The Help is next on my list.  I plan to see the movie when I am finished reading the book.




Written by Marsha Henry


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