May 16, 2022

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Judges question Texas immunity claim in vet's lawsuit

Judges question Texas immunity claim in vet’s lawsuit

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cast doubt on a Texas claim that it cannot be sued by a former state soldier who said he was forced out of his job when he returned from military service in Iraq.

Judges heard arguments in a dispute over a federal law enacted in 1994 in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War to enhance job protections for returning service members.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the judges discussed the Vietnam War, Russia’s invasion of UkraineAlexander Hamilton and even Hamilton, the musician, as they have tried to determine whether states are protected from lawsuits brought by veterans who complain that their jobs are not protected, in violation of federal law.

The crux of the issue lies in Congress’ power to wage war and states’ acknowledgments that they lack similar authority, both of which are enshrined in the Constitution.

“We don’t know what will happen in the next 50 years. We don’t know what will happen in the next 50 days in terms of national security and individuals,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh said.

The court is considering an appeal by Lou Roy Torres, who spent a year in Iraq and was discharged as a captain after nearly 19 years in the US Army Reserve.

Torres says he suffered lung damage from exposure to open burn pits at its base in Iraq.

The state and Torres conflict with what happened when he returned to Texas, where he was unable to resume his service as a soldier in the state due to damage to his lungs. He eventually resigned and later filed his lawsuit. It was rejected by a government appeals court, and the judges intervened.

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The Biden administration supports Torres’ right to sue the state. Justice Department attorney Christopher Michel, in response to a question from Judge Samuel Alito, admitted that the federal government, which also has the right to sue states under law, has only filed 109 lawsuits since 2004 and only twice since 2015.

But Michel said that “the numbers are much greater when you look at the number of soldiers’ cases that have been successfully resolved” without going to court.

Fifteen other Republican-led states are asking the court to side with Texas and rule out private lawsuits such as the Torres case.

Congress first allowed returning service members to sue states for keeping their jobs in 1974, recognizing discrimination over opposition to the Vietnam War.

“It was the Vietnam War that made the law necessary,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Judge Amy Connie Barrett said opposition to a future war could lead to a similar situation.

“Suppose we’re interfering in Ukraine and countries are saying we shouldn’t,” Barrett said.

The debate briefly took to the stage when Justice Stephen Breyer cited “You’ll Return” to Hamilton to explain that George Washington’s frustration with states’ reluctance to pay the Continental Army led to the creation of a national defense.

“George III says, ‘They’ll be back. Wait and watch.'” Breyer said, gripping with emotion, but not the lyrics.

just last week, The court allowed the navy Consider seafarers’ vaccination status when deciding on deployments, and narrow down a lower court order. Three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, contested the Supreme Court’s order.

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Gorsuch and Thomas seemed most receptive to the Texas arguments on Tuesday. “Maybe I’m not as fond of Hamilton as some,” said Thomas.

Thomas shared remotely again on Tuesday, after a nearly week-long hospital stay due to what the court described as an infection. The court did not explain the nature of the infection and there was no explanation as to why Thomas was not in the courtroom.

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This story has been corrected to show federal law that was enacted in 1994, not 1991.