Justia Military Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff challenged his discharge in federal court, but the district court held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear his claims brought pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Mandamus Act because the Veterans' Benefits Act (VBA) is a comprehensive statutory scheme governing the discipline of VA employees and was the exclusive remedy for review of plaintiff's employment discharge. The district court also held that while the VBA did not bar plaintiff's procedural due process claims, the claims were not colorable because he received all the process due to him.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over any claim under the APA because the VBA is a comprehensive statutory scheme that precludes APA review; the district court did not have jurisdiction to hear a constitutional claim because plaintiff did not present a colorable due process claim; and there is no basis for mandamus jurisdiction because plaintiff has not established a clear right to any relief or a clear duty of the VA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision but remanded solely so that the district court can amend its judgment to reflect that it is a dismissal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. View "Hakki v. Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that various medical professionals working for the VA breached their legal duty to exercise ordinary medical care and negligently failed to diagnose his throat cancer and immediately treat it. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that judicial review of his claims was precluded by the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in pat, concluding that the district court did lack jurisdiction over some of plaintiff's claims but that it had jurisdiction over his tort claims alleging medical negligence or malpractice. To the extent that plaintiff alleges that any delay in his receipt of needed medical care was a result of the VA's failure to timely approve and/or authorize his care or payments therefore, the district court could not review those allegations without second-guessing a decision by the VA necessary to a benefits determination—when to grant the requested benefit. As for plaintiff's allegations related to the VA's failure to follow its own policies, procedures, and protocols, if the district court lacks jurisdiction to review the VA's approval, authorization, and scheduling decisions, it must also lack jurisdiction to determine whether the VA followed its own internal procedures in making those decisions. However, plaintiff's medical negligence and malpractice claims do not require the district court to decide whether plaintiff was entitled to benefits nor do they require the court to revisit any decision made by the Secretary in the course of making benefits determinations. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law