Court Week / Panel Activity

This week is Court Week at the Federal Circuit, with hearings starting today. The Federal Circuit is providing access to live audio of each panel scheduled for argument via the Federal Circuit’s YouTube channel. In total, including a case set to be argued in two weeks, the court will convene 12 panels to consider about 58 cases. Of these 58 cases, the court will hear oral arguments in 41. Of these argued cases, three attracted amicus briefs: one patent case, one military records case, and one veterans case. Here’s what you need to know about these three cases.

Centripetal Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

As explained in our argument preview, in this patent case Cisco appeals a finding that it infringed four patents held by Centripetal Networks resulting in a judgment of over $2.75 billion.

In a recent order, the Federal Circuit limited Monday’s oral argument as to if the district court judge should have recused himself from the case. On this issue, Cisco argues that “[t]he district judge was disqualified by his wife’s financial interest in Cisco.”  Cisco contends that “28 U.S.C. §455(b) required recusal unless the interest was ‘divest[ed]’ under §455(f),” and in this case “[n]o divestiture ever occurred, because the judge’s wife was never ‘deprive[d] or dispossess[ed]’ of the financial interest.”

Centripetal Networks responds that the district court judge “promptly disclosed the issue to the parties and his wife divested into a blind trust, curing any potential appearance of bias.”

High Tech Inventors Alliance filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant-appellant, Cisco. The amicus brief, however, only concerned the merits and did not address the recusal issue being argued on Monday.

Mark C. Fleming will argue for Cisco Systems.

Paul J. Andre will argue for the Centripetal Networks.

This argument is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 4, in Courtroom 201 at 10:00 A.M. Eastern.

LaBonte v. United States

As explained in our argument preview, in this military records case LaBonte is challenging a “Court of Federal Claims decision that military correction boards established under 10 U.S.C. § 1552 may not grant disability retirement to service members whose ‘Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty,’ a standard separation document known as a ‘DD-214’ form, contains reference to a court martial.” 

On appeal, LaBonte argues “[t]he trial court erred in holding that Mr. LaBonte did not state a claim for which relief can be granted” because the board has “broad remedial authority under § 1552(a), which allows for the correction of military records when necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice, including granting retroactive disability retirement.” Moreover, according to LaBonte, “nothing in statute or regulation prevents the Board from granting Mr. LaBonte’s retirement claim and changing his DD-214 to reflect that retirement status.”  Alternatively, LaBonte contends, “the Board still would have the authority to grant disability retirement to Mr. LaBonte because no statute or regulation requires that the Board amend the ‘Narrative Reason for Separation’ on his DD-214 to grant his requested relief.”  

The United States, by contrast, argues “[t]he trial court properly dismissed Mr. LaBonte’s challenge to the . . . denial of [his] claim for disability retirement, pursuant to RCFC 12(b)(6), based upon a comprehensive analysis of the plain meaning of 10 U.S.C. § 1552(f).” As to LaBonte’s alternative argument, the United States contends “Mr. LaBonte’s alternative interpretation is unsupported by the statutory text, and none of the arguments that he raises undermines the trial court’s thorough analysis.”

Amicus briefs in support of LaBonte were filed by Military Law Practitioners and a joint brief from the National Veterans Legal Services Program and Protect Our Defenders.

Michael Wishnie of Yale Law School will have two law student interns argue on his behalf for LaBonte.

Richard Schroeder will argue for the United States.  

This argument is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 4, in Courtroom 402 at 10:00 A.M. Eastern.

Skaar v. McDonough

As explained in our argument preview, in this veterans case the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, McDonough, appeals a decision by the Court of Veterans Appeals certifying a class action involving veterans. Skaar cross-appealed to argue the Court of Veterans Appeals misinterpreted equitable tolling and waiver of exhaustion standards to exclude from the certified class veterans who had not timely appealed past agency denials.

On appeal, McDonough argues that the Court of Veterans Appeals “explicitly requires a “decision of the Board [of Veterans’ Appeals] as a prerequisite for Veterans Court jurisdiction,” but “the Veterans Court in this case certified a class that includes categories of veterans over whom it does not possess jurisdiction: present-future claimants, who have not yet received the statutorily mandated board decision, and future-future claimants, who have not even filed claims with VA.” According to McDonough, this is “clear legal error.” As to the cross-appeal, McDonough contends that neither of Skaar’s arguments to include past or expired claimants “has merit.”

Skaar contends “[t]he Veterans Court did not err in certifying an injunctive class that includes veterans who have been or will be denied benefits because of the Secretary’s reliance on an obsolete and unjustified dose estimate methodology.” Regarding the cross-appeal, Skaar argues that “the Veterans Court misinterpreted the standard for equitable tolling and waiver of exhaustion when it excluded from the class veterans who had not timely appealed claims denied by the VA.”

Amicus briefs were filed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program and 15 Administrative Law, Civil Procedure, and Federal Courts Professors in support of Skaar.

Sosun Bae will argue for the McDonough.

Lynn Neuner will argue for Skaar.

This argument is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 7, in Courtroom 201 at 10:00 A.M. Eastern.