Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Military Law
Roe v. United States Department of Defense
Plaintiffs Roe and Voe sought a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo while they challenged their discharges after the Air Force's determination that plaintiffs' chronic but managed illness—HIV—makes them unfit for military service. Determining that plaintiffs' claims presented a justiciable military controversy, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims that their discharges were arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In this case, if the deployment policies permit servicemembers to seek a waiver to deploy to CENTCOM's area of responsibility, the Air Force violated the APA because it discharged the servicemembers without an individualized assessment of each servicemember's fitness, instead predicting they could not deploy as a result of their HIV status. Furthermore, even if the Air Force was correct that CENTCOM's policies render the servicemembers categorically ineligible to deploy to its area of responsibility, plaintiffs have shown they are likely to succeed on their claim that the deployment policies at issue violate the APA because the Government has not—and cannot—reconcile these policies with current medical evidence. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in its findings that the discharges would cause irreparable harm to plaintiffs, and the district court correctly determined that the balance of equities and the public interest favored a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo during litigation. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in crafting this preliminary injunction. Because plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their APA claim, the court need not address their equal protection claim. . View "Roe v. United States Department of Defense" on Justia Law
Posted in: Military Law
Metzgar v. KBR, Inc.
The Fourth Circuit held that the political question doctrine barred an action brought by United States military personnel, civilian contractors, and surviving family members against KBR for injuries allegedly caused by KBR's waste management and water services across Iraq and Afghanistan. The court held that the action presented a political question because the military's control over KBR was plenary and actual under the first Taylor v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 658 F.3d 402, 408–409 (4th Cir. 2011), factor. The court need not reach the Federal Tort Claims Act preemption issue and thus affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "Metzgar v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law
BAE Systems Technology v. Republic of Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Admin.
In a contract dispute between BAE and Korea, BAE sought a declaratory judgment that it had not breached any contractual obligation to Korea and a permanent injunction barring Korea from prosecuting its suit against BAE in Korean courts. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of BAE's requested declaration, but refused to issue a permanent injunction. The court held that the BAE-Korea agreement's permissive forum selection clause provided no basis for dismissing this action; Korea was not immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act; the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) structure shields a U.S. contractor, such as BAE, from liability; enforcement of the BAE-Korea agreement would undermine the control the United States retained in all FMS transactions over price; because the U.S. government retained control over price in an FMS transaction, a foreign state generally has no cause of action — against anyone — if the price demanded by the U.S. government increases over time; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying BAE's petition for a permanent anti-suit injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "BAE Systems Technology v. Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Admin." on Justia Law
Sibert v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that the foreclosure sale of his house was invalid under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. 3953(a), 3953(c), which requires a lender to obtain a court order before foreclosing on or selling property owned by a current or recent servicemember where the mortgage obligation "originated before the period of the servicemember's military service." The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Wells Fargo, holding that plaintiff's mortgage obligation originated when he was in the Navy, it was not a protected obligation under section 3953(a), and his later enlistment in the Army did not change that status to afford protection retroactively. View "Sibert v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Butts v. Prince William County School Board
Plaintiff, an Army Reservist and fifth grade teacher, filed suit against the Board. Plaintiff claimed that she was improperly reemployed in violation of Section 4313 of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4313, because her mental state rendered her unqualified, and the Board’s allegedly hostile work environment triggered or exacerbated her disability. Plaintiff was reemployed by the Board after her deployment, but eventually terminated based on her deficient performance. The Board later discovered that plaintiff was disabled due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The district court granted summary judgment to the Board. The court affirmed the judgment because Section 4313 cannot serve as a basis for claims involving acts occurring after reemployment, and because plaintiff has no available remedies. View "Butts v. Prince William County School Board" on Justia Law
Aikens v. Ingram, Jr.
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against two former members of the North Carolina Army National Guard, Adjutant General William E. Ingram, and Lieutenant Colonel Peter von Jess, alleging that defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff claimed that defendants, motivated by revenge, directed other service members to monitor plaintiff’s email messages, which he sent while serving on active duty in Kuwait, and to forward incriminating messages to von Jess. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants based on the justiciability doctrine in Mindes v. Seaman. Mindes provided a four-factor test for reviewability of claims based on internal military affairs. The court acknowledged that defendant now renounces any claim for equitable relief and affirmed the district court's judgment on the basis of the military abstention doctrine set forth in Feres v. United States. In this case, plaintiff's alleged injuries arose out of activity incident to his service where he was on active duty, deployed in a war zone, and used a computer system set up by the DOD for military personnel deployed at Camp Doha. View "Aikens v. Ingram, Jr." on Justia Law
Ameur v. Gates
Plaintiff filed suit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1350, against former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other federal officials allegedly involved in his detention as a suspected terrorist. Plaintiff was determined to be an "enemy combatant" but was eventually released to his native country of Algeria. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, 28 U.S.C. 2241(e)(2). View " Ameur v. Gates" on Justia Law
Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
Plaintiffs, foreign nationals, alleged that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. CACI, a corporation domiciled in the United States, contracted with the United States to provide private interrogators to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs alleged that CACI employees instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated federal and international law. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. does not foreclose plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and that the district court erred in reaching a contrary conclusion. In light of Kiobel, the court held that plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. Because the court was unable to determine whether the claims presented nonjusticiable political questions, the court did not reach the additional issue of the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' common law claims. The court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to all plaintiffs' claims and remanded. View "Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc." on Justia Law
United States ex rel. Kurt Bunk v. Gosselin World Wide Moving
Relators filed suit in district court asserting claims arising from a Direct Procurement Method (DPM) scheme. The DOD instituted the International Through Government Bill of Lading program to govern transoceanic moves, while relying on the DPM to contract for transport strictly on the European continent. These appeals and cross-appeals were taken from final judgments, entered in accordance with Rule 54(b), in two qui tam actions consolidated for litigation in district court. The court concluded that relator possessed standing to sue for civil penalties while bypassing the prospect of a damages award and, therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in his favor; the court reversed and remanded to the extent that the district court denied relator discovery of any penalties; and the court vacated the district court's ruling in favor of the United States so that it could conduct further proceedings on what remained of the government's FCA claim and reentered judgment as appropriate. View "United States ex rel. Kurt Bunk v. Gosselin World Wide Moving" on Justia Law
Durden v. United States
Plaintiff filed suit against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), alleging that the Army was negligent and therefore liable for an Army Specialist's sexual assault against plaintiff. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that the sexual assault was foreseeable under North Carolina law, and thus the Army did not breach a duty owed to plaintiff as landlord of Fort Bragg; the Army did not have a special relationship with the assailant for purposes of an FTCA claim; the government did not breach a voluntarily assumed duty to plaintiff; and, because discovery would serve no purpose, it was not error for the district court to reach the merits of plaintiff's claim at this stage of the litigation. The court also concluded that, although the government's ability to control a tortfeasor must be independent of the tortfeasor's status as a government employee, knowledge of the tortfeasor's propensity for violence or criminal history did not, per se nullify an FTCA claim. Accordingly, the district court's dismissal on this alternative basis was erroneous. View "Durden v. United States" on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Injury Law, Military Law, U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals