Changing Voices in a Familiar Conversation About Rules vs. Standards: Veterans Law at the Federal Circuit in 2011
By James D. Ridgway | 61 Am. U. L. Rev. 1175 (2012)
The George Washington University Law School
When an institution is in flux, there are two obvious ways to examine it. One can attempt to make predictions about its future, or one can explore the current baseline to set up future analysis of the impact of change. As discussed below, both the Federal Circuit and the dynamic that has shaped veterans law in recent decades are in flux. This Article, while continuing the recent trend of reviewing the developments in veterans law at the Federal Circuit over the preceding calendar year, takes the latter approach to the bigger picture. An annual review article is better suited to the second pursuit and there is little solid information that could be used to predict where the events of 2011 will take veterans law. Accordingly, a deeper reflection on the status quo helps set the stage for digesting the coming changes.
Part I of this Article looks at the “changing voices” in veterans law. This past year has seen an unusually high number of departures and arrivals at the Federal Circuit. In addition, constitutional cases filed in the other federal courts indicate that opinions from other circuits may soon change the dynamic of veterans law at the Federal Circuit. Part II of this Article will look at the familiar conversation. That section builds upon an observation made by Paul R. Gugliuzza in last year’s review article, and suggests that, under the surface of the Federal Circuit’s jurisprudence, there is a familiar rules-versus standards debate that may reflect different views about what it means for the system to be “veteran friendly.” Part III contains a review of the veterans law cases decided by the Federal Circuit in 2011. The Conclusion provides a few thoughts about what the 2011 veterans law cases suggest about the analysis set forth in Part II. Finally, the Addendum continues and expands the statistical look at veterans law at the court, begun by Gugliuzza in last year’s review article.
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