Changing the feres Doctrine

Changing the Feres Doctrine

The Feres Doctrine stems from the United States Supreme Court case of Feres v. United States, decided in 1950, which prohibited service members from filing civil lawsuits under any circumstances.  The rule is categorical, applying across-the-board to any harm a service members sustains.  While there is no question civil suits should not stem from combatant activities, the rule also applies to non-combat injuries such as sexual assault and medical malpractice.  Under the Feres Doctrine, all suits filed by service members are immediately dismissed prior, a rule that closes the courthouse door to military sexual trauma survivors and other badly treated service members.  The result is that perpetrators are given legal immunity while injured parties are "re-victimized."   

It is time to change the Feres Doctrine, which has been national policy for nearly 70 years.  As Chief Justice Earl Warren said, "Our citizens may not be stripped of basic rights simply because they have doffed civilian clothes."  Blanket immunity for military officials should be replaced with a more nuanced approach, one which preserves combat readiness while honoring the victims of egregious misconduct and inexcusable neglect.  

To learn more, see the articles below by Chief Executive Officer Dwight Stirling and Vice President of Policy Dallis Warshaw.  They have written on the topic in a variety of publications.

Articles – 

Orange County Register 

Orange County Lawyer Magazine 

American Bar Association's GP Solo

Journal of Law, Policy, and Military Affairs