Articles Posted in Military Law

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Harkness was commissioned as a Navy Chaplain Corps officer in 1987, endorsed by a non-liturgical Christian church. Harkness left active duty in 1995 and took reserve status. In 2000, Harkness and other non-liturgical chaplains sued the Navy, alleging systemic denominational prejudice in its promotion procedures. That suit is still pending. In 2007, Harkness was denied promotion by a reserve officer promotion board. Harkness requested a special selection board (SSB). The petition was denied. Harkness filed suit in 2010, challenging (10 U.S.C. 14502(h)(1)) the SSB denial and the promotion procedures. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the constitutional claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In 2012, the Secretary convened an SSB to reconsider the 2007 decision. It did not select Harkness for promotion; Harkness unsuccessfully requested a second SSB. In 2013, Harkness was again denied promotion and unsuccessfully requested an SSB, alleging that procedures employed by promotion boards produced denominational preferences and challenging the delegation of governmental authority to chaplains serving on promotion boards without effective guarantees that the power would be exercised in a neutral, secular manner. In filing suit, Harkness added a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of all claims. the 2013 promotion board was not constitutionally infirm; the denial of Harkness’s 2013 SSB request was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law under section 14502(h)(1). View "Harkness v. Secretary of Navy" on Justia Law

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Member of Naval Reserve, terminated by private employer, established a prima facie case under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Savage worked as an aviation mechanic for FedEx, 2001-2012, simultaneously serving as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. He was terminated by FedEx for violating its reduced-rate shipping policy and acceptable conduct policy. He had never been disciplined before his termination; he claims he was unaware of a change in policy that prohibited use of an employee discount for shipping items sold on eBay. FedEx had accommodated his military duties and employs other members of the military. Savage had complained, to a third-party administrator, about a miscalculation in his pension benefits. Savage claimed discrimination, retaliation, and improper benefit calculations under USERRA, 38 U.S.C. 431. The district court granted FedEx summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that Savage provided evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether FedEx correctly calculated his pension contributions under section 4318. Savage also provided evidence of disparate treatment, motivated by his protected status, with respect to misuse of the shipping discount, sufficient to survive summary judgment. The court concluded that Savage had not been targeted for investigation. View "Savage v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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Slusher, an orthopedic surgeon and military reservist, worked at Heritage, a small hospital in Shelbyville, Tennessee, through a staffing service, on 30-day assignments beginning on July 20, 2010. Slusher was offered, but did not accept, a permanent position. He agreed to a one-year contract in January 2011, which could be terminated by either party for any reason upon 90 days’ notice or by Heritage, effective immediately, with 90 days’ pay instead of notice. It did not provide for renewal or extension. Heritage knew that he could be called up for deployment. On May 4, 2011, Slusher received orders. Before Slusher’s deployment, Heritage informed him that it had interviewed another physician for the orthopedic surgeon position. Heritage granted Slusher military leave. He reported for active duty on June 10. While he was in Iraq, Heritage informed Slusher that it was nearing a contract with Mosley. Slusher later signed a termination agreement, specifying that his employment would end on October 26. Slusher returned to Heritage, where Mosley had begun working, on October 3, and worked there until October 26, 2011. Slusher filed a complaint with the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. After the Department of Labor closed its investigation, Slusher filed suit, claiming discrimination under and violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301-35 and breach of contract. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants on each claim. View "Slusher v. Shelbyville Hosp. Corp." on Justia Law

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Cameron returned to Kentucky after serving as a Marine in Iraq and applied for VA Medical Benefits, but did not include verification of service (DD-214). Four months later, the VA verified his service, but its record did not reflect combat service or other eligibility; his status was “Rejected.” A week later, Cameron’s records were updated and he was retroactively enrolled. Cameron had been involved in killing a civilian family. His parents had contacted the Lexington VA mental health department and urged their son to seek help. Tiffany, his wife, told him that she and their baby would not continue to live with him unless he sought help. Days before his enrollment was corrected Cameron went to the Leestown VA. The intake clerk recognized that Cameron was in urgent need of help and talked to him for 40 minutes, despite not finding his enrollment. She concluded that Cameron was suicidal. No mental health professional was available at Leestown. She sent him to Cooper Drive VA. Cameron called his father later, stating that he had been turned away from Cooper Drive because he did not have his DD-214. Cameron drove home. He and Tiffany searched for the form. Cameron became frustrated and threatened Tiffany, who called 911. While on the phone, she heard a shot. Her husband had committed suicide. His family asserted claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The district court dismissed, holding that it did not have jurisdiction over a “benefits determination,” Veterans’ Judicial Review Act, 38 U.S.C. 511.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Whether the clinics had a duty to care for Cameron is an improper question for this stage. The government failed to show that the actions of the VA employees satisfied the test of the FTCA’s discretionary function exception. View "Anestis v. United States" on Justia Law

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The FBI investigated Alwan, an Iraqi living in Bowling Green, after his fingerprints appeared on an improvised explosive device in Iraq, and introduced Alwan to a confidential source (CHS), who recorded their conversations. CHS convinced Alwan that he was part of a group supporting Jihad. Alwan assisted in sending what he believed to be money and weapons to the Mujahidin several times and eventually asked to lead the fictional terrorist cell. CHS instructed Alwan to recruit others. Hammadi agreed to join, stating that he had participated in IED attacks on American troops and had been arrested, but bribed his way free and fled to Syria. In Syria, he applied for refugee status to immigrate to the U.S. and answered “no” when asked if he had engaged in terrorist activity. Hammadi had moved to Bowling Green on the recommendation of Alwan, whose family he knew from Iraq and whom he had met in Syria. The two transported $100,000 from CHS to a truck, believing that it would find its way to Iraq, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A. They hid rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, plastic explosives, and sniper rifles in another truck, for transport to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A and 2339B. They loaded Stinger missiles into another truck and plotted to murder a U.S. Army Captain. Hammadi pleaded guilty to 10 terrorism and two immigration offenses. Rejecting claims of entrapment and sentencing manipulation, the district court imposed a life sentence. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Hammadi would not qualify for a departure under either theory. View "United States v. Hammadi" on Justia Law

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Harkness, a reserve Commander in the Navy Chaplain Corps, was denied a promotion to the rank of Captain by an annual selection board. The Secretary of the Navy denied his request to convene a special selection board (SSB) to review that decision. Harkness filed suit, claiming that promotion policies and procedures for chaplains violated the Establishment Clause. The district court dismissed, citing failure to exhaust administrative remedies required by 10 U.S.C. 14502(g). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that non-promoted officers must first petition the Secretary to convene an SSB. The Secretary must weigh certain factors, including whether an administrative error caused the original selection board not actually to consider the officer, or whether a material error caused the original board to mistakenly fail to recommend promotion. If the Secretary determines that an SSB is not warranted, the officer can seek review of that denial in federal court. The language of Harkness’s request apparently challenged only the composition of the board and fell short of giving the Secretary a meaningful opportunity to respond to Harkness’s constitutional contention. View "Harkness v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act guarantees returning veterans reemployment with their former employers and prohibits employers from discriminating against veterans based on their military service, 38 U.S.C. 4301–4335. Petty claimed that Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County violated USERRA in its treatment of him after he returned to Metro’s police department from active duty in the U.S. Army: Metro failed to restore him to his former position of patrol sergeant and discriminated against him on the basis of his military service. Metro had declined to reinstate him because of his alleged dishonesty concerning his military discipline history. Following remand, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Petty on his reemployment claims and ordered Metro to reinstate him to his former position as a patrol sergeant; the court awarded Petty back pay and partial liquidated damages on his reemployment claims and ruled in his favor on his discrimination claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Metro was on notice of its obligation to reinstate Petty, but never did so. View "Petty v. Metro. Gov't of Nashvlle & Davidson Cty." on Justia Law

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Wife serves in the U.S. Air Force and executed a military power of attorney designating husband as her attorney-in-fact during her deployment overseas. Husband presented a photocopy of this instrument to the Fayette County Clerk to recording an original deed and mortgage in the real property index records. The clerk’s office rejected the copy as inauthentic and refused to record the documents. The district court dismissed their suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, which claimed that rejection of the power of attorney violated 10 U.S.C. 1044b. That statute sets the minimal requirements for executing a military power of attorney and prohibits states from imposing additional requirements. During the pendency of appeal, the couple submitted an original military power of attorney and the documents were recorded. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The unnotarized copy of the power of attorney lacked an essential element of a military power of attorney and did not qualify for 1044b(a) protections.

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Plaintiff, an African American, began working for defendant in 1987 and was a member of the Army Reserve. In 2004, after rehabilitation for an injury sustained in Iraq, he returned to his job as a supervisor. When he presented orders for training, a manager told plaintiff that he needed to choose between the company and the Army. Plaintiff claimed that managers assigned him more work than others, otherwise treated him differently, and terminated his employment for falsifying a safety form, which, he claimed, was a widespread practice. Plaintiff also claims that he was told to disqualify an African American female trainee, no matter how well she performed, and refused to do so. The district court ruled in favor of the employer on discrimination and retaliation claims under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4311(c)(1), and race discrimination and retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981, Title VII, and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed with respect to retaliation claims under Title VII, but otherwise reversed. The district court improperly denied discovery with respect to treatment of other supervisors. There were material issues of fact as to whether military service was a factor in the company's actions.

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Defendant was discharged from the U.S. Army due to a personality disorder. He was later charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, 18 U.S.C. 3261(a), and sentenced, by a federal district court, to life in prison for participating in a sexual assault and multiple murders while stationed in Iraq. Co-conspirators, still on active duty and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 802(a)(1), were tried by courts-martial and each sentenced to between 90 and 110 years imprisonment; they are eligible for parole in ten years. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first noting that Iraq could not prosecute the defendant and that prosecution in the U.S. did not violate international law. The Army completed a valid discharge of defendant, so that he was no longer subject to courts-martial. His trial under MEJA did not violate the separation-of-powers principle or his due process or equal protection rights. Defendant was no longer similarly situated with his co-conspirators when charges were filed.