Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Case of United States V.windsor, Executor of the Estate of Spyer, et Al. *

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Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Case of United States V.windsor, Executor of the Estate of Spyer, et Al. *


SYLLABUS

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

UNITED STATES v. WINDSOR, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF SPYER, ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

No. 12-307. Argued March 27, 2013-Decided June 26, 2013

The State of New York recognizes the marriage of New York residents Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who wed in Ontario, Canada, in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, she left her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, but was barred from doing so by §3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which amended the Dictionary Act-a law providing rules of construction for over 1,000 federal laws and the whole realm of federal regulations-to define "marriage" and "spouse" as excluding same-sex partners. Windsor paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund, which the Internal Revenue Service denied. Windsor brought this refund suit, contending that DOMA violates the principles of equal protection incorporated in the Fifth Amendment. While the suit was pending, the Attorney General notified the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the Department of Justice would no longer defend §3's constitutionality. In response, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives voted to intervene in the litigation to defend §3's constitutionality. The District Court permitted the intervention. On the merits, the court ruled against the United States, finding §3 unconstitutional and ordering the Treasury to refund Windsor's tax with interest. The Second Circuit affirmed. The United States has not complied with the judgment.

Held:

1. This Court has jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case. This case clearly presented a concrete disagreement between opposing parties that was suitable for judicial resolution in the District Court, but the Executive's decision not to defend §3's constitutionality in court while continuing to deny refunds and assess deficiencies introduces a complication. Given the Government's concession, amicus contends, once the District Court ordered the refund, the case should have ended and the appeal been dismissed. But this argument elides the distinction between Article III's jurisdictional requirements and the prudential limits on its exercise, which are "essentially matters of judicial self-governance." Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 500. Here, the United States retains a stake sufficient to support Article III jurisdiction on appeal and in this Court. The refund it was ordered to pay Windsor is "a real and immediate economic injury," Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., 551 U. S. 587, 599, even if the Executive disagrees with §3 of DOMA. Windsor's ongoing claim for funds that the United States refuses to pay thus establishes a controversy sufficient for Article III jurisdiction. Cf. INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919.

Prudential considerations, however, demand that there be "concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions." Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S. 186, 204. Unlike Article III requirements-which must be satisfied by the parties before judicial consideration is appropriate-prudential factors that counsel against hearing this case are subject to "countervailing considerations [that] may outweigh the concerns underlying the usual reluctance to exert judicial power." Warth, supra, at 500-501. One such consideration is the extent to which adversarial presentation of the issues is ensured by the participation of amici curiae prepared to defend with vigor the legislative act's constitutionality. …

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