WASHINGTON, DC — Coming to the defense of a military cadet raped while enrolled at West Point Military Academy, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the right of military servicemembers to sue the government over injuries suffered as a result of government negligence. In an amicus brief filed in Jane Doe v. United States, The Rutherford Institute and The Constitution Accountability Center (CAC) argue that the Court should abrogate the Feres doctrine, which bars virtually all personal injury claims by military personnel and their families under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), thereby denying servicemembers access to the very system of justice they have pledged to defend.
“For too long, the courts have given the government a free pass to rape, pillage and murder without having to suffer the consequences for such blatant misconduct. That is the very definition of tyranny,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “No American—whether that person is a civilian or servicemember—should be forced to suffer such abuses by their own government and its agents without some expectation of justice and an appropriate redress of grievances.”
Raised in a military family, Jane Doe was admitted to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, in 2008, where female cadets were exposed to a rampant culture of misogyny, sex discrimination and sexual violence. This sexually aggressive environment was fostered by school and military leaders and their failure to punish rapists and other sexual assailants, contrary to established Department of Defense regulations. One evening in 2010, cadet Jane Doe was raped while on a recreational walk within the West Point installation. She immediately sought comprehensive medical and counselling support, but contrary to controlling regulations, she received neither and no forensic examination was done. Three months later, she resigned and left West Point. After being denied compensation for her injuries by the military’s administrative system, Doe brought a lawsuit in federal court against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Doe’s claim was dismissed under the Feres doctrine, a creation of a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that servicemembers cannot bring claims under the FTCA for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to military service. Feres has been broadly applied to bar recovery for injuries suffered that have no relationship to military service, including a case involving superior officers allowing the mock lynching of a Black servicemember and a case involving a child born with cancer due to her father’s exposure to radiation. After the dismissal of Doe’s FTCA claim was affirmed on appeal, she filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the case. In their amicus brief supporting Doe, The Rutherford Institute and CAC argue that the Feres doctrine is contrary to the plain text of the FTCA, which waives the government’s immunity as to “any claim” based on negligence, and nowhere suggests claims by servicemembers are excepted from the waiver.
The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated and educates the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting their freedoms.
Article posted with permission from John Whitehead
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