12 January 2008

staying right here

The first thing one learns in law school is that spell check is no longer helpful. It does not recognize a high proportion of the words needed to write about the law. One inevitably sits staring at words like “domiciliaries” for extended periods of time, comparing to a textbook or handout, making sure that it is actually spelled the way it is intended to be spelled so it can be added to the computer’s dictionary. I never bothered to add any of these words to my computer’s dictionary, so I stare at them for extended periods of time EVERY TIME I use them on my computer. And no, I don’t intend to add them. That’s what they want. It means that they win.

Speaking of domiciliaries, let’s discuss them, just briefly.

Did you know, if you are a U.S. citizen, that you are a citizen of a state? I know, you thought you were a citizen of a country and a resident of a state, but you were wrong. You are a citizen of the state where you are domiciled. The good news is that you can change your citizenship, just by moving to a new state and intending to remain there. Subjectively intending to live there. It’s like there is a little computer chip in your head reporting to your various states, “Yep, she’s here for good. Yep, intends to make this place her domicile. Yep, now a citizen.”

Know what this means? This means that, despite having lived in New York for three years (minus summers in Africa), I was never a New York citizen. This means that I was a New State citizen as I stepped off the plane (and could be sued here for anything and everything).

Furthermore, you can’t get out of this state citizenship by moving overseas. Ever. I know, you moved overseas fifteen years ago and you never intend to live in this country again. Your computer chip should be flashing like mad. “Gone! Gone! Gone!” Nope. Still a citizen of the state you lived in before you left. “But I left! And I subjectively intend to live in Country X forever!” Tough. Still a citizen of your last state. Still can be sued there for anything you did anywhere.

I always wondered how I could file tax returns as a non-resident resident of Michigan. Apparently I didn’t. I filed tax returns as a non-resident citizen of Michigan. And now, suddenly, with one plane trip, I am a citizen of New State. Very, very strange.

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