A former female West Point cadet who claimed she was raped while enrolled at the prestigious academy hit a roadblock in her pursuit of legal action due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday.
As the Washington Times reported, on Monday the high court rejected her case, which was an appeal after lower courts tossed her original lawsuit in which she claimed that West Point didn’t adequately protect its cadets from sexual assault incidents. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that the previous ruling that prohibits military members from seeking legal recourse is outdated and has resulted in numerous injustices over the years.
According to NBC News, the former cadet, who was identified as “Jane Doe” in court documents, originally alleged that she was raped during her second year at the academy in 2010 while on a walk with a fellow male cadet.
After filing suit against two West Point administrators, a lower court tossed her case, citing a 1950 SCOTUS ruling, known as Feres v United States, which ruled that U.S. military members can’t file a lawsuit “incident to” their military service.
Justice Thomas took issue with the rejection of hearing her case, adding that the 1950 ruling was wrongly decided, given that federal law only rules out suing over injury claims that resulted from wartime “combat activities.” Obviously, her alleged rape incident took place during her military service, but not during a combat activity.
Thomas pointed to a clear example of why he believes the ruling needs to be updated, writing that if “two Pentagon employees, one civilian and one a service member, are hit by a bus in the Pentagon parking lot and sue, it may be that only the civilian would have a chance to litigate his claims on the merits.”
The original 1950 ruling has been criticized by members of the high court of both political stripes, including criticism from the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
In the case of Jane Doe’s incident, a group of law professors strongly urged the high court to hear the case, citing the fact that she wasn’t engaged in combat nor was she even under contract for military service, adding that her only connection to the military at that point was her enrollment at West Point.
“Yet under Feres, that alone was enough to make her rape incident to military service,” the professors argued.