Overview

Cohen Milstein’s Employee Benefits Appellate Practice is dedicated to representing participants, beneficiaries or entities representing the interests of employees, retirees, plan participants or beneficiaries in ERISA cases on appeal.  In the appropriate case, Cohen Milstein is willing to engage in appellate representation on a contingency fee basis or engage in representation on a deferred payment arrangement.

Experience

Cohen Milstein’s Employee Benefits Appellate Practice is headed by Karen Handorf, who was in charge of the Department of Labor’s ERISA appellate practice for more than fifteen years prior to joining Cohen Milstein.  In the early 1990s, Ms. Handorf helped establish the Department of Labor’s ERISA amicus brief writing program which addressed a wide range of novel and difficult ERISA issues in amicus briefs in both state and federal courts, particularly at the appellate level.  At the DOL, Ms. Handorf either wrote or supervised more than 100 appellate and amicus briefs, which covered a wide range of issues including preemption of state laws, preemption of medical malpractice claims, remedies available under ERISA, standing, ESOPs, discrimination and retaliation under ERISA § 510, termination annuities, employer stock purchases, retiree healthcare benefit termination, benefit disputes, diversification, multiple employer welfare arrangements, QDROs, fiduciary status, plan status, and prohibited transactions.  During her time at the Department of Labor, Ms. Handorf was also responsible for developing the Government’s position in amicus briefs filed by the Solicitor General of the United States in all ERISA cases before the Supreme Court, including New York State Conf. of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., Mertens v. Hewitt Assocs., Rush Prudential v. Moran, Varity Corp. v. Howe, UNUM Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, Harris Trust & Sav. Bank v. Salomon Smith Barney, and Cal. Div. of Labor Stds. Enforcement v. Dillingham Constr.

Prior Representation

Cohen Milstein's Employee Benefits Appellate Practice has represented entities such as the Pension Rights Center and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in several significant cases as well as individual participants.  The following is a list of some of Cohen Milstein’s appellate cases:

  • Amicus before the United States Supreme Court in Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, 536 U.S. 355 (2002) a case involving the scope of ERISA preemption of state insurance laws. See Brief of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as Amicus Curiae In Support of Respondents, 2001 WL 1673395 (filed Nov. 7, 2001).
  • Amicus before the United States Supreme Court supporting certiorari in Harley v. 3M Company, 537 U.S. 1106 (2003) involving the issue of whether plan participants may sue to recover losses to overfunded defined benefit plans caused by a breach of fiduciary duty. See Brief of the Pension Rights Center as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners, 2002 WL 32133446 (filed Nov. 14, 2002).
  • Amicus before the United States Supreme Court in LaRue v. DeWolff, Boberg & Associates, Inc., 552 U.S. 248 (2008) a case involving the ability of defined contribution plan participants to sue for relief to the plan if the alleged violation did not result in losses to the accounts of all plan participants.   See Brief of the Pension Rights Center as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner, 2007 WL 2287652 (filed Aug. 7, 2007)
  • Amicus in the Third Circuit in In re Schering-Plough Corporation ERISA Litigation, 589 F.3d 585 (3rd Cir. 2009) involving the issue of whether fiduciaries are immune from liability for their choices of investment options in a 401(k) plan.  Brief of the Pension Rights Center as Amicus Curiae in Support of Appellants (available upon request)
  • Brief of Plaintiffs-participants in In re Citigroup, No. 09-3084 (2d Cir) involving the standard of review of a plan fiduciary’s decision to maintain an employer stock fund in a 401(k) plan.  This case is still pending.
  • Brief of a class of plaintiffs in Boos v. AT&T, No. 10-50353 (5th Cir.) involving the issue of whether a program providing cash payments provided to certain “pension-eligible” retirees to reimburse their person telephone expenses during retirement constitutes a pension plan under ERISA.  This case is still pending.

Whom To Contact For More Information

If you have an employee benefits case that has been appealed or for which you are considering an appeal, are interested in submitting an amicus brief or to learn more information about Cohen Milstein’s appellate and amicus practice, contact:

Karen L. Handorf 
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, Suite 500
Washington DC 20005
Telephone: 202-408-4600
Email at khandorf@cohenmilstein.com