Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Military Law
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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
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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

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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

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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
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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