News 18 Aug. 2023

Curtis Files SCOTUS Amicus Brief for Veterans’ Rights

Acting as pro bono counsel, Curtis filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the National Institute of Military Justice (NIMJ) in support of the petitioner in Rudisill v. McDonough, a case involving veterans’ benefits. NIMJ is a non-profit dedicated to the fair administration of justice in the armed forces and improved public understanding of military justice.

Rudisill, an Army combat veteran, qualified for education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill after eight years of service. Rudisill wanted to use his education benefits to attend Yale Divinity School to become an Army Chaplain. The Department of Veterans Affairs restricted his benefits to a cumulative three years under both programs rather than the statutory cap of four years, adopting an overly restrictive interpretation of the relevant statutory provisions. Rudisill argued for a more generous reading of the statute, invoking what is known as the “pro-veteran canon” of statutory interpretation. The Federal Circuit sided with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Supreme Court granted review.

“We’re honored to work with NIMJ and to help bring its view on veterans rights to the Supreme Court,” said Curtis partner Juan Perla, who led the Curtis appellate team in this effort. “Veterans have given of themselves to safeguard our freedoms. By investing in their education and wellbeing, we honor their service and invest in the nation’s future.” Other team members included partner Barry Kingham and associates Aubre Dean and Emily Belic.

The Curtis amicus brief recounts several episodes of U.S. history in which veterans were induced to enter into service with the promise of benefits only to see those benefits reduced in later years. The “pro-veteran canon” emerges from that history as a rule of liberal construction, guiding courts towards the most generous, textually permissible reading of a veterans’ benefits statute. Should the Petitioner prevail, the outcome will impact the lives of over 1.5 million veterans, who could become eligible to receive these educational benefits for their service.

“NIMJ is grateful to work with Curtis in urging the Supreme Court to apply the venerable pro-veteran canon in Mr. Rudisill’s and like cases, so that congressional intent can be fully realized in order to keep our nation’s promises to our veterans,” said NIMJ President Rachel VanLandingham.

Click here to read the brief on the Supreme Court's website.

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