Justia Military Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
by
Dual-status military technicians are “Federal civilian employees” but must maintain National Guard membership and wear the appropriate military uniform while performing civilian technician duties. They must meet certain military requirements.Newton worked as a National Guard dual-status technician, 1980-2013, also serving as a New Jersey Army National Guard member, receiving separate military pay. In 2013, Newton retired from both. He received a pension from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for his National Guard service and an annuity paid by the Office of Personnel Management for his dual-status technician service. The Social Security Administration (SSA) notified Newton that he qualified for retirement benefits, subject to a reduction under the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), 42 U.S.C. 415(a)(7)(A), because he received a separate pension payment “based in whole or in part upon" earnings not subject to Social Security tax, his civil service annuity. Newton argued that his civil service pension triggered an exception to the WEP for uniformed service.The Third Circuit held that Newton’s benefits are subject to a WEP reduction. Newton has always received two separate salaries and now receives two separate pensions. At most, Newton’s OPM civil service pension is based on service he provided while also serving in the National Guard, but not for “service as a member of a uniformed service.” View "Newton v. Commissioner Social Security" on Justia Law

by
After their three-year-old adopted son died, U.S. Army Major John Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, were convicted of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. The New Jersey law offenses were “assimilated” into federal law under the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 13(a), which “borrows” state laws to fill gaps in federal law for crimes committed on federal enclaves. The Jacksons’ crimes occurred within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. (Picatinny Arsenal Installation). Using the offense guidelines for assault, U.S.S.G. 2A2.3, and aggravated assault, U.S.S.G. 2A2.2, the Probation Office calculated both defendants’ Guidelines range as 210-262 months. The government calculated a range of 292-365 months. The court declined to calculate the applicable sentencing ranges under the U.S.S.G., reasoning that there was no “sufficiently analogous” offense guideline, sentenced Carolyn to 24 months of imprisonment plus supervised release, and sentenced John to three years of probation plus community service and a fine. The Third Circuit vacated the sentences, adopting an “elements-based” approach, but concluding that the assault guideline is “sufficiently analogous” to the Jacksons’ offenses. The district court failed to make the requisite findings with respect to the Guidelines calculation and the statutory sentencing factors. While the court could consider what would happen if the Jacksons had been prosecuted in state court, it focused on state sentencing practices to the exclusion of federal sentencing principles. The sentences were substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Jackson" on Justia Law