Cardona v. Shinseki

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Cardona v. Shinseki
USCAVC low.png
Court United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
Full case name Carmen J. Cardona,
Appellant,
v.
Eric K. Shinseki,
Appellee.
Citation(s) CAVC Case Number 11-3083
Case history
Appealed from Board of Veterans' Appeals Decision, Docket Number 11-01 921 (August 30, 2011)
Related action(s)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Bruce E. Kasold
Keywords
Defense of Marriage Act, Fifth Amendment, Equal protection, Tenth Amendment, Bill of Attainder, Same-sex marriage

Cardona v. Shinseki is an appeal pending in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) of a decision by the Board of Veterans' Appeals upholding the denial of service-connected disability benefits for the dependant wife of a female veteran.[1] The United States Department of Veterans Affairs denied the disability benefits based on the definition of "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex" under federal statute.[2]

Proceedings in the Department of Veterans Affairs[edit]

Carmen Cardona, a veteran of the United States Navy, applied in 2010 for service-connected disability benefits for her dependent wife.[3]

The Veterans' Affairs Regional Office in Hartford, Connecticut, declined to recognize Cardona's marriage. Title 38 of the United States Code, which relates to veterans' benefits, defines a "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a wife or husband".[4] The federal regulation that tracks and implements Title 38 defines "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex" who meets certain requirements.[5]

Cardona appealed the decision to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA), which confirmed the denial of disability benefits based on its conclusion that Cardona's wife is not a "spouse" for purposes of veterans' benefits even though their marriage is valid under Connecticut law.[6] The BVA did not reach the constitutional issues raised by Cardona's legal counsel because it claimed lack of jurisdiction and legal authority.[6]

Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims[edit]

On October 13, 2011, Cardona, represented by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School,[7] filed an appeal in the CAVC against Eric K. Shinseki, the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Attorney General Eric Holder informed Congress on February 17, 2012, of his conclusion that the definition of "spouse" in Title 38 of the United States Code violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[8] Holder explained that neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) had identified any justifications that would warrant treating Title 38 differently from Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which he previously concluded violates equal protection.[8]

On April 19, 2012, Cardona filed a brief with the court, arguing that Title 38 and Section 3 of DOMA are unconstitutional because they violate the Tenth Amendment and the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Cardona also argued that the statutes are unconstitutional bills of attainder.[9]

In a May 4 letter, DVA informed the speaker of the house that it would not defend the denial of benefits to veterans married to same-sex spouses on equal protection grounds.[10] On May 21, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the U.S. house of representatives filed an unopposed motion to intervene in the case, which the court granted on May 21.[11] and on August 31 filed a brief defending the constitutionality of the statutes.[12]

Oral argument was originally scheduled for November 29, 2012.[13] On November 8, BLAG requested it be postponed for forty-five days, pending the U.S. Supreme Court's disposition of petitions for writs of certiorari in several other cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA (Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, Windsor v. United States, and Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management).[14] The court granted the delay over Cardona's objections.[15] On December 18, 2012, the court, sua sponte, ordered the case "stayed pending resolution of Windsor or until further order of the Court."[16]

Amicus briefs[edit]

Six amicus ("friend of the court") briefs have been filed in the case, all in support of Cardona.[17]

The Connecticut attorney general argued that the federal statutes and regulations violate the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by intruding on the state's sovereign authority to determine the marital status of its citizens and to guarantee all married couples equal rights and benefits under the law.[18]

Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Service Women's Action Network, Vets4Vets, and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center argued that the federal statutes and regulations violate the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They also argued that the interpretation of them by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Board of Veterans' Appeals was inconsistent with the intent of Congress.[19]

Briefs were also filed by retired military officers,[20] disability rights advocates,[21] law professors,[22] and 15 public interest and legal services organizations.[23][n 4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gill and Massachusetts were decided in separate opinions in the District Court by the same judge on the same day and a single opinion in the Court of Appeals, which found section 3 unconstitutional. The Supreme Court denied three petitions for certiorari in these cases, docket numbers 12-13, 12-15, and 12-97, on June 27, 2013, following its decision in Windsor.
  2. ^ The Supreme Court decided Windsor on June 26, 2013, finding section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
  3. ^ a b Pedersen and Golinski are cases in which district courts held section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. The Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari before judgment that sought to bypass the courts of appeals in these cases, filed under docket numbers 12-231, and 12-16, on June 27, 2013, following its decision in Windsor. Pedersen is still pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, while the Ninth Circuit dismissed Golinksi on July 23 with the consent of all parties.
  4. ^ The 15 organizations are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Justice Center, The Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Equality Federation, the Equal Justice Society, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Legal Momentum, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Women's Law Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Miller, Joshua Rhett (October 13, 2011). "Disabled Navy Veteran in Same-Sex Marriage to Sue for Benefits". FoxNews.com. 
  2. ^ Dao, James (October 12, 2011). "Denied Veterans Benefits Over Same-Sex Marriage, Ex-Sailor Challenges Law". New York Times. 
  3. ^ Gideon, Gavan; Daniel Sisgoreo (October 14, 2011). "Law students aid veteran's appeal". Yale Daily News. 
  4. ^ 38 U.S.C. § 101(31)
  5. ^ "38 C.F.R. § 3.50". Law.cornell.edu. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "''In the appeal of Carmen J. Cardona'', Board of Veterans' Appeals, Department of Veterans Affairs, Docket Number 11-01 921, August 30, 2011" (PDF). Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Pending Cases Challenging the Defense of Marriage Act - GLAD". 
  8. ^ a b "Letter from Eric H. Holder, Jr., United States Attorney General, to John A. Boehner, Speaker, U. S. House of Representatives, February 17, 2012" (PDF). Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Appellant's Principal Brief, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 19, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ Dao, James (May 11, 2012). "Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sides With Veteran in DOMA Case". New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Motion of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives for Access to the Record Before the Agency, Cardona v. Shinseki, No. 11-3083 (Vet. App.) (June 26, 2012), accessed July 15, 2013
  12. ^ "Brief of Intervenor-Appellee Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, August 31, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Order, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, October 17, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Intervenor-Appellee's Motion to Postpone November 29, 2012 Oral Argument for Good Cause Pending U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Eight Petitions for Writ of Certiorari, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, November 8, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Order, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, November 15, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Order, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, December 18, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  17. ^ O'Leary, Mary E. (April 28, 2012). "Disabled veteran, denied spousal benefit, finds support". Torrington Register Citizen. 
  18. ^ "Brief of the State of Connecticut as Amicus Curaie in Support of the Appellant, Carmen Cardona, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 25, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Brief of National Veterans' Service Organizations as ''Amici Curiae'' in Support of Appellant Carmen J. Cardona, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 26, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Brief for ''Amici Curiae'' Retired Military Officers Supporting Appellant, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 26, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Brief of Disability Rights Advocates as ''Amicus Curiae'' in Support of Appellant, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 26, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Brief of ''Amici Curiae'' United States Constitutional and Family Law Professors in Support of Appellant, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 25, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Brief of ''Amici Curiae'' 15 Public-Interest Organizations and Legal Service Organizations in Support of Appellant, ''Carmen Cardona v. Erik K. Shinseki'', United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Vet. App. No. 11-3083, April 26, 2012". Retrieved November 1, 2013. 

External links[edit]