Changing the feres Doctrine

Creating a Cause of Action for Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma in the California National Guard


The Feres Doctrine is a rule created by the Supreme Court that says that those who serve in the American military cannot file a lawsuit for injuries they sustain. The rule stems from a 1950 case called Feres v. United States. The Feres Doctrine is so sweeping in scope that it prevents survivors of sexual assault from suing their assailants in civil court. This is because the Supreme Court deems both combat injuries and sexual assault injuries to be “incident to service.” Such a policy is out of alignment with American values and must be changed.  


The CLMP believes that military sexual assault survivors should be afforded their day in court. It is both irrational and immoral to characterize sexual assault as “incident to military service.” The California legislature should empower members of the California National Guard to sue when sustaining sexual assault-related injuries. As state employees, California National Guard personnel should have the same ability to access the legal system as their civilian counterparts. In time, Congress should likewise grant federal military personnel a similar cause of action. 


Our team members have published extensively on the Feres Doctrine.


* Read the CLMP's policy initiative to create a cause for MST survivors.


* Read Dwight Stirling's ground-breaking speech on the immoral reach of the Feres Doctrine.


* Read Dwight Stirling and Dallis Warshaw's op-ed in the Orange County Register.


* Read Dallis Warshaw's article in the Orange County Lawyer Magazine.


* Read Dwight Stirling and Dallis Warshaw's article in the American Bar Association's GP Solo 


* Read Dwight Stirling's scholarly article in the Journal of Law, Policy, and Military Affairs.