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Farrell v. District of Columbia Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

January 5, 2017

Sheila Farrell, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board, Respondent.

          Argued April 2, 2015

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the District of Columbia Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board

          Kierstan L. Carlson, with whom Alan M. Freeman was on the brief, for petitioner.

          Carl J. Schifferle, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Eugene A. Adams, Interim Attorney General for the District of Columbia at the time the brief was filed, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for respondent.

          BEFORE: Glickman and McLeese, Associate Judges; and Steadman [*] , Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the administrative record, a certified copy of the agency hearing transcript and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the current petition is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

          OPINION

          Roy W. McLeese Associate Judge.

         Petitioner Sheila Farrell filed a claim for survivor benefits with respondent District of Columbia Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board.[1] The Board denied Ms. Farrell's claim, and Ms. Farrell seeks review of that ruling in this court. We conclude that we lack jurisdiction, because the Board's ruling is not subject to direct review in this court. We therefore dismiss the petition.

         I.

         The following circumstances appear to be undisputed. Ms. Farrell was previously married to Joseph Novak, a member of the United States Secret Service. Mr. Novak was eligible for retirement benefits administered by the Board. Ms. Farrell and Mr. Novak divorced in October 1989, having agreed that Ms. Farrell would receive the survivor benefits associated with Mr. Novak's retirement plan. That agreement was subsequently incorporated into a divorce decree. Mr. Novak did not, however, formally designate Ms. Farrell as a beneficiary under his retirement plan, and neither Mr. Novak nor Ms. Farrell submitted the divorce decree to the administrator of the retirement plan.

         Mr. Novak later married Jane Novak. Following the death of Mr. Novak in July 2012, the Board awarded his survivor annuity to Ms. Novak as the surviving spouse. Ms. Farrell applied for survivor benefits in April 2013. The District of Columbia Department of Human Resources denied Ms. Farrell's application, stating that Ms. Farrell had not presented the divorce decree to the administrator of the retirement plan until 2013, and that the survivorship benefit under the plan had vested in Ms. Novak as Mr. Novak's legal spouse at the time of his death. The Department of Human Resources also stated that the divorce decree did not comply with certain requirements of the retirement plan and of the Spouse Equity Act of 1988, D.C. Code § 1-529.01 et seq. (2014 Repl.).

         Ms. Farrell challenged the denial in August 2013 by petitioning the Board. The Board issued its final decision in December 2013, stating without explanation that it found no reason to reverse its decision awarding benefits ...


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