Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Military Law

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Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association and Military-Veterans Advocacy filed suit challenging the VA's policy requiring "blue-water" veterans to prove on a case-by-base basis that they were exposed to Agent Orange during their military service in order to be considered for certain benefits. Plaintiffs argued that the policy was arbitrary and capricious and otherwise unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2). Plaintiffs sought injunctive and mandamus relief to prevent the VA from denying the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to blue-water veterans. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, citing 38 U.S.C. 511(a), which bars review in district court of VA decisions “under a law that affects the provision of” veterans benefits. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that Congress stripped the district court of jurisdiction over the claims at issue. View "Blue Water Navy Vietnam v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Trent M. Coburn pled not guilty to marijuana use in non-judicial proceedings related to a positive drug test, but was found guilty and received a negative non-commissioned officer evaluation report based on the offense. The Army subsequently denied Coburn continued Army Service. In Coburn I, the court remanded to the ABCMR so it could provide a reasoned explanation (if possible) for several questions the court could not resolve. Since then, the ABCMR has issued a new opinion in response to the court's remand, affirming the decision to terminate Coburn’s Medical Evaluation Board and proceed with his discharge. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the ABCMR’s conclusions. Therefore, the court affirmed the ABCMR’s decision to terminate Coburn’s disability processing and its conclusion that Coburn’s medical conditions did not warrant further medical review. View "Coburn v. Murphy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Military Law

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Petitioner moved for one of the three judges of the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, Judge William B. Pollard III, to disqualify himself. Judge Pollard is a civilian who serves as a part-time judge on the court. He also maintains a private law practice. Petitioner contends that this arrangement is unlawful and requires Judge Pollard’s disqualification. Petitioner seeks a writ of mandamus ordering Judge Pollard's disqualification. Petitioner argued that Judge Pollard’s disqualification is compelled by the Rules of Practice of the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review; petitioner raises another related argument under the appearance of impartiality standard incorporated into the Rules of Practice; Judge Pollard must disqualify himself because the Judge’s part-time private practice of law violates 18 U.S.C. 203(a), a criminal statute; and Judge Pollard has violated 28 U.S.C. 454, which states that any justice or judge appointed under the authority of the United States who engages in the practice of law is guilty of a high misdemeanor. Although the court concluded that petitioner's arguments carry some force, he has not shown a "clear and indisputable" right to relief at this time. Therefore, the court denied the petition. The court noted that if the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review decides against petitioner in his pending appeal, he may renew his arguments about Judge Pollard on direct appeal to this court. View "In re: Omar Khadr" on Justia Law

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Petty Officer Walter Jackson filed suit claiming that the Board's denial of his request to correct his navy record violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq.; the Due Process Clause; and equitable principles. A recommendation against re-enlistment stemmed from Jackson’s unauthorized absence from his naval base, a subsequent disciplinary infraction, and two adverse performance evaluations. The court applied a deferential standard of review and concluded that, given Jackson’s infractions in the Navy, the Board reasonably denied Jackson’s requests for record correction. The court rejected Jackson's remaining contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "Jackson, Jr. v. Mabus, Jr." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, raised two challenges to the constitutionality of the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR). The court held that petitioner is not entitled to mandamus relief because this Court can consider his Appointments Clause and Commander-in-Chief Clause challenges on direct appeal, after the military commission renders a final judgment and the convening authority and the CMCR review it. Further, petitioner failed to demonstrate a “clear and indisputable” right to the writ. Therefore, the court denied petitioner's petition for writ of mandamus and prohibition. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Al-Nashir" on Justia Law

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After Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, went on a hunger strike, he was forcibly extracted from his cell and force-fed. The district court examined 32 classified videotapes of Dhiab's forcible cell extractions and force-feedings in order to grant Dhiab's motion to enjoin the government from forcibly extracting him from his cell and force-feeding him. At issue is the district court's grant of media organizations' motion to unseal and release the videotapes. The court concluded that, the district court’s decision did not terminate the action, and it does not qualify as an immediately appealable collateral order. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction. Further, this case does not present the extraordinary circumstances required for mandamus relief. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and denied the request for a writ of mandamus View "Dhiab v. Obama" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked in the State Department as Diplomatic Security Special Agents and volunteered to serve one-year in Iraq. They arrived in Iraq in February 2004. Initially, their permanent duty station was in Washington, D.C., so they received “locality pay” in addition to base salary intended to equalize federal employees’ compensation with that of non-federal workers in the same geographic area, 5 U.S.C. 5301, 5304. Months later, their permanent duty station changed to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and they no longer received locality pay. Plaintiffs also received compensation for a significant number of overtime hours. In 2005, they returned to the U.S. After the Office of Personnel Management’s new regulations took effect, the plaintiffs received notices of a review of premium pay earnings involving Iraq, that “the rate of the annual premium pay cap that applies to you is $128,200,” that earnings to date “have already or will shortly put you above the cap for the current pay year,” and that the Department would seek collection of any overpayments. Each later received a letter requiring repayment of from $435.94 to $10,514.98. The D.C. Circuit held that the Department permissibly construed the statute and did not act arbitrarily in denying a discretionary waiver of the obligation to repay. View "Lubow v. Dep't of State" on Justia Law

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Haselwander, an Army veteran, served in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1974. During his tour of duty Haselwander was wounded and knocked unconscious when an enemy rocket exploded near his sleeping quarters. He was picked up by medical personnel and treated for shrapnel wounds. He was called back to duty as soon as he had been bandaged. Those who treated his wounds never had a chance to complete paperwork, so Army records do not show that he was wounded in hostile action. In 2007, Haselwander sought to correct his records so that he could receive the Purple Heart, which is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who is wounded or killed in action. Haselwander provided corroborative references and photographs, showing him with bandages on his face and shoulder and wearing a dispensary-issued scrub top. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected the application, stating that Haselwander failed to show that he had been “treated for a wound that was sustained as the result of enemy action.” Haselwander unsuccessfully sought reconsideration, including a letter from another veteran who was wounded and treated at the same time and official Brigade and Platoon reports, detailing events on the day he was wounded. The district court affirmed. The D.C. Circuit reversed, stating that the: “Board’s decision defies reason and is devoid of any evidentiary support.” View "Haselwander v. McHugh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Military Law

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This appeal arose from events surrounding six individuals formerly detained at Guantanamo Bay. At issue was whether the detainees cleared by a military tribunal but nevertheless subjected to continued detention and allegedly abusive treatment have sufficiently alleged that those authorizing and supervising their detention acted outside the scope of their employment. The actions at issue can be divided into two categories: (1) the continued detention of plaintiffs post- Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) clearance, and (2) all acts attendant to that continued detention that occurred during the post-clearance period. The court concluded that claims in both categories, as pled, failed to support the conclusion that defendants acted outside the scope of their employment. Accordingly, the court granted defendants' motion to dismiss.View "Allaithi v.Rumsfeld, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Guantanamo detainees, filed suit challenging two new policies that they claimed place an undue burden on their ability to meet with their lawyers. The first challenged policy concerns where the detainees may meet with their lawyers. The second challenged policy involves the search the detainees must undergo when meeting with their lawyers. The court concluded that administering a more thorough search in connection with attorney visits as well as with any other detainee movements or meetings is a reasonable response to a serious threat to security at Guantanamo. The court also concluded that it is reasonable to require that all meetings between detainees and their visitors, including counsel, take place in Camp Echo, which requires fewer guards than the housing camps. Further, the new policies are reasonable under the remaining factors of the Turner v. Safley test. The tenuous evidence of an improper motive to obstruct access to counsel in this case cannot overcome the legitimate, rational connection between the security needs of Guantanamo Bay and thorough searches of detainees. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "Hatim, et al. v. Obama, et al." on Justia Law

Posted in: Military Law