U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Surviving Spouse in Henderson v. Shinseki

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On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of Mrs. David Henderson in Henderson v. Shinseki. The case involved whether equitable tolling applicable to the filing of an appeal at the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court). The decision is available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-1036.pdf.

Mr. Henderson had a severe service connected mental disability and missed the appeal-filing-deadline at the Veterans’ Court by 15 days. The Veterans Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against him, holding that the 120 day deadline was jurisdictional (i.e. a failure to meet the deadline ended the appeal). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mrs. Henderson, holding that the 120 day filing deadline at the Veterans’ Court does is not jurisdictional. (Mr. Henderson died while his case was pending before the Supreme Court.)

Mr. Henderson’s appeal was dismissed by the Veterans Court when the Pro Bono Program arranged for counsel to seek reconsideration of that dismissal. Tom Stoever, of the Denver offices of Arnold and Porter, who has handled several jurisdictional cases for the Program, assisted Mr. Henderson at the Veterans Court and the Federal Circuit. He then passed the case to Arnold & Porter’s Supreme Court practice group.