Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Military Law
Kitlinski v. Department of Justice
After the DEA terminated Darek and Lisa Kitlinski's employment based on their refusal to participate in an internal investigation into their own allegations of misconduct by the DEA, the Kitlinskis alleged that the DEA terminated Darek in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), and that the DEA terminated Lisa in retaliation for her support of Darek’s USERRA claims against the DEA. The Kitlinskis also claim that the DEA retaliated against them for their prior protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the DEA, concluding that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence that Darek's military service or his prior USERRA-protected activity was a motivating factor in his termination. Furthermore, even assuming that Armstrong v. Index Journal Co., 647 F.2d 441, 448 (4th Cir. 1981), applies here, the court has little difficulty concluding that the DEA's interest in ensuring its employees' full participation in internal investigations outweighs any interest Lisa had in promoting USERRA's nondiscriminatory purpose. The court also concluded that no reasonable factfinder could conclude that the DEA terminated the Kitlinskis' employment in retaliation for engaging in protected activity. The court explained that the Kitlinskis offer no evidence showing that the DEA terminated their employment for any reason other than their conduct during the OPR investigation. The court rejected the Kitlinskis' remaining claims. View "Kitlinski v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law
National Veterans Legal Services Program v. Department of Defense
Various statutory provisions and regulations require the DOD to maintain a publicly accessible website containing all decisions rendered by its Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records. When the DOD was alerted in 2019 that some posted decisions contained personally identifiable information, it temporarily removed all decisions from the website. Since then, the DOD has slowly been redacting and restoring the decisions to the site.NVLSP filed suit against the DOD and the Secretaries of the military departments to require them to fulfill the statutory mandate of publishing all decisions and to do so promptly. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss, ruling that NVLSP lacked Article III standing to bring the action and that the DoD's conduct was not judicially reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act.The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding that although NVLSP has standing to bring this action, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. In this case, NVLSP challenges defendants' ongoing actions in maintaining and managing the website, not any final agency action understood as a discrete agency determination of rights and obligations, as necessary to give a court subject matter jurisdiction under the APA. View "National Veterans Legal Services Program v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law
Ward v. United States
In 28 U.S.C. 2241 proceedings, petitioner sought habeas corpus relief from his military court convictions and sentence, claiming violations of his Fifth Amendment right to due process and Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the section 2241 petition, but recognized that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is the proper basis for the dismissal of both claims. In regard to petitioner's contention that his Fifth Amendment due process claim was not accorded full and fair consideration by the military court, the court held that dismissal of the claim was proper where the propensity instruction given during his court-martial proceedings was insufficiently prejudicial to entitle him to habeas corpus relief. For similar reasons, dismissal of the Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance claim is proper. In this case, petitioner cannot show a reasonable probability that a challenge to the propensity instruction on direct appeal would have been successful. View "Ward v. United States" on Justia Law
Posted in: Military Law
Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), after his civilian employer did not promptly rehire him after he completed a tour of duty.The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiff's discrimination claim under 38 U.S.C. 4311, holding that plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient factual content to support a "reasonable inference" that his military service was a motivating factor in any of the airline's conduct about which he complains; the district court did not err in ruling that American Airlines failed to discharge its statutory duty promptly; and the district court did not err in rejecting plaintiff's contention that American Airlines' conduct was willful. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part, remanding for the district court to recalculate damages, presumptively imposing backpay damages against American Airlines and denying damages for the period from October 22 to January 25, unless the offered position was not an equivalent under the Act. View "Thomas Harwood, III v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Campbell v. McCarthy
Plaintiff, a civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, filed suit challenging the Army's decision to suspend him from his employment pending review of his security clearance. The district court awarded summary judgment to the Army on claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the action in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988). The court held that review of any of plaintiff's claims requires review of the suspension of his security clearance — a review that necessarily goes to the very heart of the protection of classified information — and thus Egan deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction to review each of the claims. Therefore, the district court erred by failing to dismiss these claims outright for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Campbell v. McCarthy" on Justia 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