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The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the equities favored disinterment of the remains of Chester Howard West, a World War I Medal of Honor recipient, and granting the petition of Hershel Woodrow Williams. Williams filed a petition seeking authorization to disinter West’s remains and bury him with full military honors at the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument located within the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute, West Virginia. The circuit court granted the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court had the authority under common law to rule on the question of disinterment of West’s remains, and W. Va. Code 29-1-8a did not preempt the circuit court’s common law jurisdiction; and (2) the equities favored disinterment. View "In re Remains of Chester Howard West" on Justia Law

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Harkness was commissioned as a Navy Chaplain Corps officer in 1987, endorsed by a non-liturgical Christian church. Harkness left active duty in 1995 and took reserve status. In 2000, Harkness and other non-liturgical chaplains sued the Navy, alleging systemic denominational prejudice in its promotion procedures. That suit is still pending. In 2007, Harkness was denied promotion by a reserve officer promotion board. Harkness requested a special selection board (SSB). The petition was denied. Harkness filed suit in 2010, challenging (10 U.S.C. 14502(h)(1)) the SSB denial and the promotion procedures. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the constitutional claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In 2012, the Secretary convened an SSB to reconsider the 2007 decision. It did not select Harkness for promotion; Harkness unsuccessfully requested a second SSB. In 2013, Harkness was again denied promotion and unsuccessfully requested an SSB, alleging that procedures employed by promotion boards produced denominational preferences and challenging the delegation of governmental authority to chaplains serving on promotion boards without effective guarantees that the power would be exercised in a neutral, secular manner. In filing suit, Harkness added a First Amendment retaliation claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of all claims. the 2013 promotion board was not constitutionally infirm; the denial of Harkness’s 2013 SSB request was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law under section 14502(h)(1). View "Harkness v. Secretary of Navy" on Justia Law

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Kitlinski, employed by the DEA and a Coast Guard reservist, was recalled to active duty. For an extended period, he served full-time at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. He filed complaints under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301-35, and an equal employment opportunity complaint against DEA, based on DEA’s responses to his requests to be transferred from DEA’s San Diego office to Arlington, Virginia, where Kitlinski’s wife worked. After a deposition, Kitlinski returned to his car, in a secure DEA parking lot, and discovered a Blackberry device bearing a DEA sticker under his car's hood. He suspected that it was intended to track his location and record his conversations. Kitlinski reported his discovery to the FBI. Kitlinski’s wife was interrogated and was threatened with discipline if she did not turn over the Blackberry. Kitlinski filed an action with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging that the placement of the Blackberry and his wife's interview violated USERRA as discrimination and by creating a hostile work environment. He also alleged retaliation and a hostile work environment in retaliation for his exercise of his USERRA rights. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal of various claims but remanded in part because the Board did not make a finding on Kitlinski’s claim that DEA had created a hostile work environment in retaliation for his USERRA activities. View "Kitlinski v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Ollis, a veteran, sought disability benefits under 38 U.S.C. 1151, which provides benefits for certain injuries incurred as a result of VA medical care. Ollis suffers from atrial fibrillation and claims a disability resulting from complications of a heart procedure to treat that condition. The procedure (miniMAZE) was allegedly recommended by a VA doctor but was performed by a private doctor. The VA denied Ollis’s application for benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated in part, remanding the question of whether Ollis’s VA doctors were negligent by recommending the mini-MAZE procedure to him. The Veterans Court focused on whether VA medical treatment caused Ollis to utilize Dr. Hall and Methodist Medical Center, rather than on whether VA medical treatment caused him to have the mini-MAZE procedure itself. On remand, the Veterans Court must also address the “not reasonably foreseeable” and “proximate cause of the disability” requirements. The court affirmed rejection of an argument that VA’s failure to provide him notice that a referral to a private facility for his miniMAZE procedure could extinguish his eligibility for benefits constituted a violation of his right to due process. View "Ollis v. Shulkin" on Justia Law

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A state court may not order a veteran to indemnify a divorced spouse for the loss in the spouse’s portion of the veteran’s retirement pay caused by the veteran’s waiver of retirement pay to receive service-related disability benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act authorizes states to treat veterans’ “disposable retired pay” as community property divisible upon divorce, 10 U.S.C. 1408, excluding amounts deducted from that pay “as a result of a waiver . . . required by law in order to receive” disability benefits. In their divorce, Sandra was awarded 50% of John’s future Air Force retirement pay, which she began to receive when John retired. Years later, the Department of Veterans Affairs found that John was partially disabled due to an earlier service-related injury. To receive disability pay, John gave up an equivalent amount of retirement pay, 38 U.S.C. 5305. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed a family court order that Sandra receive her full 50% regardless of the waiver. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. John’s military pay was subject to a future contingency. State courts cannot “vest” that which they lack the authority to give. Family courts remain free to consider the contingency that some military retirement pay might be waived or consider reductions in value when calculating or recalculating the need for spousal support. View "Howell v. Howell" on Justia Law

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Member of Naval Reserve, terminated by private employer, established a prima facie case under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Savage worked as an aviation mechanic for FedEx, 2001-2012, simultaneously serving as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. He was terminated by FedEx for violating its reduced-rate shipping policy and acceptable conduct policy. He had never been disciplined before his termination; he claims he was unaware of a change in policy that prohibited use of an employee discount for shipping items sold on eBay. FedEx had accommodated his military duties and employs other members of the military. Savage had complained, to a third-party administrator, about a miscalculation in his pension benefits. Savage claimed discrimination, retaliation, and improper benefit calculations under USERRA, 38 U.S.C. 431. The district court granted FedEx summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that Savage provided evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether FedEx correctly calculated his pension contributions under section 4318. Savage also provided evidence of disparate treatment, motivated by his protected status, with respect to misuse of the shipping discount, sufficient to survive summary judgment. The court concluded that Savage had not been targeted for investigation. View "Savage v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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Monk served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. In 2012, Monk sought VA disability benefits, alleging service-connected PTSD, diabetes, hypertension, and strokes. The VA denied the claim, finding that his discharge was “other than honorable.” Monk filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and separately applied to the Board of Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) to upgrade his discharge status. In 2015, the VA informed Monk that it could not process his appeal until it received BCNR records. Monk sought a writ of mandamus with Veterans Court and requested that the court certify a class of all veterans who had applied for VA benefits, had timely filed an NOD, had not received a decision within 12 months, and had demonstrated medical or financial hardship (38 U.S.C. 7107(a)(2)(B)–(C)). The Veterans Court denied the request for class certification, denied another veteran’s request to join the action, and ordered the VA to respond to Monk’s petition regarding the denial of disability benefits. BCNR then granted Monk an upgraded discharge status. The Federal Circuit reversed the denial of class certification, finding that the Veterans Court has authority to certify a class for a class action and to maintain similar aggregate resolution procedures with respect to benefit denials. View "Monk v. Shulkin" on Justia Law

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This appeal and cross-appeal relate to the district court's orders releasing video recordings made at Guantanamo Bay, depicting military personnel removing a detainee, Abu Wa'el (Jihad) Dhiab, from his cell, transporting him to a medical unit, and force-feeding him to keep him alive while he was on a hunger strike. The government classified these recordings as "SECRET" because disclosing them could damage the national security, but the district court determined that the public had a constitutional right to view the recordings because the detainee's attorney filed some of them under seal, at which point the recordings became part of the court's record. The government appealed, arguing that the public has no such constitutional right. The Intervenors cross-appealed, arguing that several categories of redactions the court approved prior to public release were too extensive. The court concluded that Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court did not apply to this case and neither the intervenors nor the public at large have a right under the First Amendment to receive properly classified national security information filed in court during the pendency of Dhiab's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court further explained that, even if the intervenors had a qualified First Amendment right of access to the Dhiab recordings, the court would still reverse the district court's decision, because the government identified multiple ways in which unsealing these recordings would likely impair national security. Because the recordings will remain sealed, the intervenors' cross-appeal about the extent of the redactions was dismissed as moot View "Dhiab v. Trump" on Justia Law

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KPCC filed suit against KBR, a general contractor supporting the Government's military operations in Iraq, alleging claims for breach of contract, fraud, and promissory estoppel. At issue was a 2010 contract for, inter alia, KBR's leasing, with an option to purchase, a dining facility constructed by KPCC in Iraq. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the political-question doctrine rendered nonjusticiable the contract dispute at issue. Applying de novo review, under the discriminating inquiry required by Baker v. Carr, the court concluded that the claims presented required resolution of contractual disputes for which there existed judicially manageable standards. Therefore, there was no justiciable political question. The court disposed of KBR's remaining claims regarding the act-of-state doctrine and regarding a contractor's defense from its strict execution of a constitutionally authorized government order. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded. View "Kuwait Pearls Catering Co. WLL v. Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Air Force Captain Meredith Morris and her husband filed suit against Air Force Captain Michael Thompson for injuries Captain Morris sustained on Randolph Air Force Base. The district court granted Thompson's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the Feres doctrine. The court concluded that plaintiffs' claims were incident to service and thus the Feres doctrine applied regardless of the rank of the parties or the bringing of state-law claims; the court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the application of the Feres doctrine would interfere with their constitutional rights; the husband's loss of consortium claim was consequently barred; and the failure to seek certification under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(b)(1), did not divest the court of the jurisdiction to resolve what was brought to it on this appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Morris v. Thompson" on Justia Law