Amicus Curiae Brief Filed in United States Supreme Court for Veterans of Foreign Wars and Operation Firing for Effect

On January 24, 2017 I filed this amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the United States Supreme Court addressing the propriety of state court disposition of veterans’ disability and special compensation pay in marital property divisions consequent to divorce.

This issue has been hotly debated since the mid-1960’s. Despite two unequivocal Supreme Court cases explicitly holding federal law prohibits, i.e., preempts, state court authority over veterans retirement and disability pay, an Act of Congress doing the same thing, and a federal anti-assignment provision that without doubt bars courts from doing this but for a very limited exception, state courts continue to find ways to get around the federal law.

Military disability and retirement benefits have been a staple of the veterans’ rewards for service to his or her country since 1776. Congressional authority to provide such benefits has no greater preemptive weight than that given to it through the specifically enumerated “Military Powers” clauses in the U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clauses 11 through 13. The necessary and proper clause further supports absolute and exclusive federal preemption of state court authority in this unique area. Even the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution to the States and to the People, specifically defers to Congress’ enumerated powers in Article I. And, finally, the Supremacy Clause, Article VI, section 2 of the Constitution provides that no state constitution, statute or judicial decision can contravene the enumerated Article I powers of Congress.

Judicial deference is at its “apogee” when regarding benefits authorized by Congress for the protection of our nation’s veterans.

When state courts disregard this authority, they take from disabled veterans the benefits which are specifically purposed to supplement the veterans’ inability to achieve equally gainful employment in society after he or she has served the country

The state courts blatantly disregard these specifically designated funds by ordering veterans to pay their former spouse from whatever funds they have, even if that means the veteran’s only source of income will be diverted back to the other party. Veterans who are severely disabled, many of whom are suffering from PTSD, have neither the means nor the capacities to fund an adequate legal defense, much less withstand the scrutiny of divorce lawyers, state court judges, and cold, senseless bureaucratic functionaries who ensure that every last penny is taken from the veteran. Often, the veterans end up homeless, or worse, they commit suicide. This has been described by at least one state as an “epidemic”.

The United States Supreme Court now has the opportunity to put to rest the notion that state courts ever had any authority over these specific benefits.

I am proud to have been able to contribute to this important issue, so much so that I did not ask for compensation for the preparation of this brief.



About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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