Las Vegas Sun

November 20, 2019

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Federal court rules in long-time pension dispute

CARSON CITY – Lupe Carmona had nine wives and two pension plans.

His death in 1999 triggered a long legal fight between his last two wives over the pension benefits. The battle was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

Janis Carmona was Lupe’s wife at the time of his retirement. He later divorced her and married Judy Carmona, his ninth wife and his spouse at the time of his death.

The Hilton Hotels Pension Plan and the Nevada Resort Association International Alliance of Theatrical and State Employees Local Pension Trust both covered Lupe Carmona.

After his death, a family court judge in Las Vegas ruled that Janis Carmona had waived her right to Lupe Carmona’s pension benefits by the divorce that divided their property. The judge held that Judy Carmona was entitled to the benefits.

Janis Carmona has fought through the years to overturn that decision.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 32-page opinion, ruled that retirement benefits rested with Janis Carmona because she was Lupe Carmona’s wife at the time of his retirement. Judge Richard Clifton, who wrote the opinion, said federal law “preempted the state court’s orders directing the plans to change the beneficiaries.”

The court returned the case to U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson for rulings that “may be necessary and appropriate.”

Lupe Carmona’s seven previous wives were not involved in the litigation.

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