The Catholic University of America

 

 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims considered a case at Catholic University's law school on October 15.  L-R: Judge Lawrence B. Hagel, Chief Judge Bruce E. Kasold, CUA Law Dean Daniel F. Attridge, and Judge William S. Greenberg. 

 

 

Law School Hosts U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

 

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The Columbus School of Law’s Slowinski Courtroom served as the venue for a real, live judicial proceeding for a couple of hours on Oct. 15, when students had the opportunity to watch an active case argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. 

Established by President Reagan in 1988, the D.C.-based Court is authorized to sit anywhere in the United States and does so a few times each year, occasionally choosing a law school as a venue for its cases in an effort to broaden public understanding of the Court’s role within the judicial system. It was the Court’s second visit to CUA Law, the only school that has hosted it twice.
 
The nine-judge Court has exclusive jurisdiction over decisions of the Board of Veterans' Appeals. It reviews Board decisions appealed by claimants who believe the Board erred in its decision.
 
Three judges were in attendance on Oct. 15: Chief Judge Bruce E. Kasold, appointed to the Court in 2003 and former Chief Counsel for the Secretary of the Senate and Senate Sergeant at Arms; Judge Lawrence B. Hagel, also appointed in 2003 and former General Counsel of the Paralyzed Veterans of America; and Judge William S. Greenberg, a retired brigadier general who was nominated to the Court by President Obama in 2012.
 
The Court’s special session was introduced to the audience by law school Dean Daniel F. Attridge, who reminded the student onlookers that “the administration of justice is one of your responsibilities. This is an important part of your training and education.”
 
Following a short video presentation about the history and role of the Court, the intoning of “oyez oyez oyez” by the Clerk of Court brought the proceeding to official order, and the audience spent the next hour or so engrossed in the oral arguments in Gazaille v. McDonald, U.S. Vet. App. Docket No. 12-3170, a case that presented the issue:
 
“Is an equitable remedy for application where VA's alleged negligence causes a veteran to die before the veteran is married to his spouse for one year, where regulation requires that in order for a spouse to be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation benefits, the spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least one year before the veteran died?”
 
Students watched and learned as counsel for the appellant and opposing counsel for the government, representing the Secretary for Veterans Affairs, argued their positions and responded to questions frequently interjected from the bench. 
 
The judges probed attorneys for both sides about a variety of things such as the language of the statute at issue, the applicable case law, the underlying administrative record, and the relevance of equitable principles. 
 
At the proceeding’s conclusion, the jurists left the bench and returned to the courtroom a few minutes later to answer students’ questions about what they had just witnessed.
 
Although they were constrained in what they could say specifically about the case that was argued, the judges were complimentary about the “excellent” advocacy from the lawyers in the case.
 
For 25 minutes, the judges answered questions about the way they do and view their jobs. A collegial group, they freely acknowledged that like most courts, they bring somewhat differing experiences and judicial philosophies to their duties on the bench.
 
The three judges and attending Court officials joined the law school community for an informal lunch at morning’s end.