Friday, November 11, 2022

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims recently traveled to Iowa City to host live oral arguments at the University of Iowa College of Law and provide programming to students, alumni, and faculty. Their visit was an incredible opportunity for the law community to see the court in action and for students to learn more about the many and varied careers in veterans law to serve those who have served our country.

During the court’s two-day visit, programming included a conversation on the distinctions between Article I and Article III courts, a judicial opinion and brief writing discussion, a session on clerkships and careers in veterans and administrative law, and live oral arguments in the case of Edwards v. McDonough.

The court’s visit was initiated by the engagement and outreach of Nathan Peterson (20JD) and Doug Hathaway (20JD), who started the process in 2019 when they were law students and enrolled in the Veterans Benefits Law course, taught by Professor Amy Kretkowski (08JD). Through ongoing outreach to the court, the appellate work of law students in the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, and the support of Professor Kretkowski and others, the court’s visit came to fruition this fall.

Live oral arguments happening in the Levitt Auditorium in the Boyd Law Building
Oral arguments heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims were held in the Levitt Auditorium.

Professor Kretkowski spoke about the visit saying, “The live oral arguments presented at Iowa Law provided law students and faculty with a rare opportunity to witness the proceedings of this federal appellate court that has exclusive jurisdiction over final VA decisions. Members of the veterans’ advocacy community came to the law school from across the state (and from out-of-state) to watch the oral argument and to meet the judges, court personnel, appellant’s counsel, and senior attorneys with the VA’s Office of General Counsel.” The oral arguments hosted at the Boyd Law Building are available to watch here

Prof. Amy Kretkowski with USCAVA judges
Pictured from left to right: Judge Joseph L. Toth, Professor Amy Kretkowski, Chief Judge Margaret Bartley, and Judge Scott J. Laurer

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims was established in 1988 by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act of 1988. Before 1988, there was no judicial assistance available for veterans who were denied benefits. The court, located in Washington, DC, has national jurisdiction and occasionally sits in other locations, including law schools, around the country. Iowa Law was privileged to host Chief Judge Margaret Bartley, Judge Joseph L. Toth and Judge Scott J. Laurer along with their clerks.

“The University of Iowa has a strong history of supporting its veteran students – and I’m honored to teach our law students about the law pertaining to veterans’ VA benefits,” Kretkowski added, “the VA is the largest integrated healthcare system in this country and provides billions of dollars in various benefits to veterans and their families every year. Most of my students are not veterans, but they all have a desire to serve veterans. You don’t need to be a veteran to practice in this area of law. VA law is administrative law – which is an essential area of law to understand. If you live in this country, you will need to deal with an administrative agency at some point in your life. Understanding how administrative agencies work is a critical tool – not just for a legal practice, but for your life.”