BOGGS v. BOGGS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-79
Petitioner 
Boggs
Respondent 
Boggs
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner)
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Facts of the Case 

Isaac Boggs married Sandra Boggs, the petitioner, after the death of Dorothy, his previous wife. When Isaac retired in 1985, he received various benefits from his employer's retirement plans, including a lump sum savings plan distribution, shares of stock from the company's employee stock ownership plan, and a monthly annuity payment. In 1989, following Issac's death a dispute over ownership of the benefits arose between Sandra and Issac's sons, Thomas F., Harry M., and David B. Boggs. The sons' claim is based on Dorothy's purported testamentary transfer to them, under Louisiana law, of a portion of her community property interest in Isaac's undistributed pension plan benefits. Sandra contested the validity of that transfer, arguing that the sons' claim is pre-empted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The Federal District Court disagreed and granted summary judgment against Sandra. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Question 

Does the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 pre-empt state community-property law allowing a non-participant spouse to transfer by a testamentary instrument an interest in undistributed pension plan benefits?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Boggs, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Employee Retirement Income Security

Yes. In a opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court ruled that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempts state community-property law allowing a non-participant spouse to transfer by a testamentary instrument an interest in undistributed pension plan benefits. Justice Kennedy said "ERISA's solicitude for the economic security of surviving spouses would be undermined" by allowing a previous spouse's heirs to claim a share of such benefits."

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BOGGS v. BOGGS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_79>.
BOGGS v. BOGGS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_79 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"BOGGS v. BOGGS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_79.