Justia Military Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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After appellant asked the Board to expunge or amend Army investigators' determinations recorded in his military files, the Board denied his application and the district court sustained its decision. The DC Circuit reversed, holding that a basic mistake of fact rendered the Board's decision arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the allegedly false statement was the expiration date of appellant's current military orders, which he wrote in a blank on the 2007-2008 school year registration form to re-enroll his three children at the Fort Buchanan base school. Army investigators opened a fraud investigation on the premise that appellant's assignment was for two years, rather than three. However, it is undisputed that the assignment was for three years and the investigation did not lead to any criminal prosecution or military discipline. View "Code v. McCarthy" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for writs of mandamus seeking vacatur of all orders issued by the former presiding military judge because of the appearance of partiality. Petitioners are being tried before a military tribunal for their alleged roles in the September 11th terrorist attacks. The court held that it was neither clear nor indisputable that the military judge should have recused himself. The court explained that the military judge's career and relationships do not constitute reasonable bases for the extraordinary remedy of mandamus. View "In re: Mustafa Al Hawsawi" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Guantanamo detainee, sought a writ of mandamus asking the court to prevent the government from proceeding with destruction of a particular detention center ("Site A"). The DC Circuit denied relief, finding that the government has produced digital and photographic representations of Site A and that petitioner cannot show, as he must, that it is clear and indisputable that those representations are so insufficient as to warrant the extraordinary remedy of mandamus. After reviewing the classified record, the court held that the government took steps fully consistent with the district court's order. View "In re: Ammar Al-Baluchi" on Justia Law

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Jackson served in the Marine Corps, 1977-1991. Almost 30 years after his honorable discharge, Jackson filed a pro se complaint alleging that toward the end of his military career, his supervising officers discriminated against him because he is a black male, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The district court inferred additional claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A), and the Military Pay Act, 37 U.S.C. 204 but ultimately dismissed all of Jackson’s claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The court noted the unanimous rulings of other sister circuits, concluding that Title VII does not apply to uniformed members of the armed forces. Jackson’s APA claim was untimely and, although the limitations period is no longer considered jurisdictional, the facts alleged were insufficient to apply equitable tolling. Jackson was able to manage his affairs and comprehend his rights; he alleged that at the time of the alleged discrimination, he knew that he “had been subjected to wrongdoing and strongly desired justice.” The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the dismissal of Jackson’s Military Pay Act claim; the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction of such claims. View "Jackson v. Modly" on Justia Law

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These petitions concern the conduct of a military judge, Colonel Vance Spath, who presided over a current Guantanamo Bay detainee, Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri, who faces capital charges before a military commission. After receiving a job offer but before retiring from the military, Spath found himself locked in a dispute with Al-Nashiri's defense lawyers, three of whom sought to leave the case. The DC Circuit granted Al-Nashiri's petition for a writ of mandamus and held that Spath's job application to the Justice Department created a disqualifying appearance of partiality. In this case, the average, informed observer would consider Spath to have presided over a case in which his potential employer (the Attorney General) appeared. The court vacated all orders issued by Spath after he applied for the job, and dismissed counsels' petition as moot. View "In re: Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint, denial of his motion for leave to amend the complaint, and rejection of his motion to transfer the case to the United States Court of Federal Claims. After plaintiff served in the Marine Corps, he received an other-than-honorable discharge stemming from conduct. Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Correction Board's denial of his request to upgrade his discharge on the basis that his misconduct resulted from his mental and physical disabilities. The DC Circuit dismissed the action for want of jurisdiction because the Federal Circuit has exclusive rights over appeals from orders granting or denying the transfer of an action to the Court of Federal Claims. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the complaint, and it correctly determined that amendment to cure the jurisdictional defect would have been futile. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and dismissed in part. View "Palacios v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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Appellee, a United States citizen who has been detained by the United States military in Iraq for several months, sought release from military custody in a habeas corpus action. While the habeas petition remained pending, appellee argued that the government could not forcibly -- and irrevocably -- transfer him to the custody of another country. The DC Circuit sustained the district court's two orders: the first requiring the government to give 72 hours' notice before transferring appellee to the custody of another country; and the second enjoining the government from effecting a transfer to another country after the government reached an agreement with that country to transfer appellee to its custody. The court held that the government did not possess the authority to forcibly transfer a U.S. citizen to a different foreign country than the one in which she is already present nor to forcibly transfer as long as the receiving country has some legitimate sovereign interest in her (whether or not related to criminal prosecution). View "Doe v. James Mattis" on Justia Law

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Appellee, a United States citizen who has been detained by the United States military in Iraq for several months, sought release from military custody in a habeas corpus action. While the habeas petition remained pending, appellee argued that the government could not forcibly -- and irrevocably -- transfer him to the custody of another country. The DC Circuit sustained the district court's two orders: the first requiring the government to give 72 hours' notice before transferring appellee to the custody of another country; and the second enjoining the government from effecting a transfer to another country after the government reached an agreement with that country to transfer appellee to its custody. The court held that the government did not possess the authority to forcibly transfer a U.S. citizen to a different foreign country than the one in which she is already present nor to forcibly transfer as long as the receiving country has some legitimate sovereign interest in her (whether or not related to criminal prosecution). View "Doe v. James Mattis" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, sought a writ of mandamus directing that the Hon. Scott L. Silliman of the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) recuse himself from serving as a judge in petitioner's case on the basis of public statements made by Judge Silliman prior to and during his service on that court. Petitioner also sought to vacate a prior opinion by a panel of the CMCR that included Judge Silliman. Petitioner identified more than a dozen statements that he says indicate Judge Silliman was biased against him. The DC Circuit granted the writ of mandate and held that petitioner satisfied all three conditions for the issuance of the writ. In this case, petitioner had no other adequate means to attain the relief he desired, he satisfied the burden of showing that his right to issuance of the writ was clear and indisputable, and the court was satisfied that the writ was appropriate under the circumstances. View "In re: Khalid Shaikh Mohammad" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment stating that their family members were killed in the course of a U.S. drone attack in violation of international law governing the use of force, the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The district court dismissed the claims primarily based on political question grounds. The DC Circuit affirmed and held that it was not the role of the Judiciary to second-guess the determination of the Executive, in coordination with the Legislature, that the interests of the U.S. called for a particular military action in the ongoing War on Terror. In this case, El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. v. United States, 607 F.3d 836 (D.C. Cir. 2010), controlled the court's analysis and compelled dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. View "Bin Ali Jaber v. United States" on Justia Law