Feres Doctrine Division

Changing the Feres Doctrine to Protect Survivors of Military Sexual Assault

The Feres doctrine is a judicial policy that immunizes service members from civil liability when causing harm to each other. Created by the Supreme Court in the 1950's, the insulation from judicial review is practically absolute, applying to all varieties of intra-military harm, from a negligence to intentional wrongdoing such as sexual assault. The lack of accountability lies at the heart the military sexual assault epidemic. Since perpetrators cannot be sued, and because very few are charged or convicted criminally, there is very little incentive for perpetrators to change their behavior. 

The CLMP believes every survivor of sexual assault deserves access to the judicial system. To deny a survivor their day in court because he or she was serving in the military at the time of the assault is unconscionable.  We agree with what Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said in Durant v. Neneman, 884 F. 2d 1350, 1354 (10th Cir. 1989): “When a soldier commits an act that would, in civilian life, make him liable to another, he should not be allowed to escape responsibility for his act just because those involved were wearing military uniforms at the time of the act.  ” (italics in original).

New legislation should be enacted to empower survivors to file civil claims against their assailants.  Read our white paper outlining what change might look like.   

Articles on Feres:

Dwight Stirling's article in the Journal of Law, Policy, and Military Affairs

Dwight Stirling's article "Ending Sexual Assault Requires a Civil Solution"

Dwight Stirling's speech on the immoral reach of the Feres Doctrine

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

Dallis Warshaw's article in the Orange County Lawyer Magazine

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

Jesus Munoz' article "There Isn't A Feres Doctrine in the UK"

Phoebe DeVos-Cole's article  about how Feres violates international law.

Ryan Bertram's article "Feres Violates Fundamental Rights"

Sarah Blum's article Justice Instead of the Feres Doctrine 

Division Members

Dwight Stirling, Division Chief


Dallis Warshaw


Susan Burke


Alexis Witt


Robert McFetridge


Dr. Francine Banner


Jen Burch


Carolyn Leps