Justice Thomas says ex-West Point cadet should be able to sue over alleged rape
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a former West Point cadet who said she was raped at the academy, but Judge Clarence Thomas said the court should have taken the case to correct decades of injustice.
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe in court records, sued two senior officials who were West Point administrators on the grounds that the U.S. Military Academy's guidelines on sexual assault were inadequate and could not protect students from sexual violence . She said a colleague cadet raped her when they were walking late one night at West Point one night in 2010 in their sophomore year.
But the lower courts threw their case back, citing a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that military personnel cannot sue for injuries "inflicted" on their military service, despite federal law that determines when the federal government can be sued cuts out of the military "combat activities" in times of war.
Thomas said Monday that the 71-year-old case known as Feres v US had been wrongly decided. Jane Doe "could have made the same claims if she had been a civilian contractor employed by West Point instead of a student."
Based on the earlier decision: "If two Pentagon employees, a civilian and one a service member, are hit by a bus in the Pentagon parking lot and sued, only the civilian may have the opportunity to claim that." Merits, "he said.
In the seven decades since the Feres case was ruled, other members of the court have criticized him, including Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens.
A group of law professors, including Laurence Tribe at Harvard and Steve Vladeck at the University of Texas at Austin, had asked the court to accept the latest case.
"At the time of her rape, Ms. Doe was not a soldier in combat or on the grassroots. In fact, she wasn't even required to enter the military," they said. "Ms. Doe didn't do anything typical of the 'military' either. The only thing Ms. Doe's rape associated with military service was her enrollment at West Point. But under Feres, that alone was enough to make her rape eligible for military service do. "
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