In Pedersen v. OPM, challenging DOMA, judge denies House Republicans’ request for stay of proceedings
July 4, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
The district court judge in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management has issued her order in the case on the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group’s (BLAG) request for a stay of the proceedings. BLAG asked the judge for the stay because, they suggested, another case that is on appeal to the Second Circuit (Windsor v. OPM) addresses the same issues. The plaintiffs in the case filed their opposition brief on June 22. Judge Bryant of the District Court of Connecticut has ruled against granting a stay, finding that the under the factors the Supreme Court has laid out for consideration of a stay, BLAG has “failed to sustain its burden to establish the need for a stay.” These four factors are: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether the issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.”
Judge Bryant notes that Windsor involves one plaintiff, and that plaintiff’s standing to have her case heard in federal court has been questioned. This could mean that the Second Circuit may only resolve the question of standing.
The judge also writes that when the request for a stay was filed, a decision was already in the process of being drafted: “Moreover, a stay in this matter would not conserve judicial economy, where, at the time the motion to stay was filed, the Court had already reviewed the parties’ pleadings, the law upon which the pleadings relied, had undertaken significant research and analysis, and had begun the process of drafting the decision, expending a substantial number of hours on the matter.”
Most importantly, the judge writes, plaintiffs would be harmed by a stay at this point: “The Court finds that the harm which would befall the Plaintiffs if a stay were to be entered is significant. Entering a stay in this matter would essentially deny the Plaintiffs the right to advocate for their own interests, asking them instead to “stand aside while a litigant in another [case] settles the rule of law that will define the rights of both [parties].””
With this ruling, the judge is free to issue a decision on the merits and could do so at any time.
The filing, via Kathleen:3:10-cv-01750 #114
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (who is in charge of this case) has issued a statement:
In denying BLAG’s motion that the pending appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Windsor case made her ruling unnecessary, Judge Bryant cited potential harm to the plaintiffs if the proceedings were halted. “The Court finds that the harm which would befall the Plaintiffs if a stay were to be entered is significant,” she wrote. “Entering a stay in this matter would essentially deny the Plaintiffs the right to advocate for their own interests, asking them instead to ‘stand aside while a litigant in another [case] settles the rule of law that will define the rights of both [parties].’”
“Our plaintiffs are being denied access to vital programs under DOMA, and we’re gratified that Judge Bryant affirmed their right to a resolution of their case,” said Mary L. Bonauto of GLAD, lead counsel in Pedersen. “As long as Jerry Passaro continues to be denied his late husband’s pension; Anne Meitzen continues to be unable to go on her wife Joanne Pedersen’s health insurance, and Lynda DeForge continues to be unable to care for her wife Raquel Ardin because she can’t get Family Medical Leave, this case should be moving forward. Judge Bryant came to the right conclusion.”
The Judge also ruled that there was no harm to BLAG from denying a stay, that staying the case would not preserve judicial economy since the case is fully briefed and the court has already begun drafting a decision, and that it is in the public interest for there to be more opinions and analyses to enrich Supreme Court review, should that review be forthcoming.