News

Mason Law School Clinic Files Supreme Court Briefs to Aid Military and Veterans

Reprinted from George Mason University News, November 14, 2014.

By Buzz McClain

The George Mason University School of Law’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers and Veterans has filed two amicus or “friend of the court” briefs with the Supreme Court in an effort to educate the court on flaws in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Decisions in the cases—U.S. v. June and U.S. v. Wong—could have widespread impact on how members and former members of the U.S. military, and their families, can pursue tort claims against the federal government.

George Mason’s clinic, which offers legal services at no cost to military and veteran clients, made the filings with the assistance of international law firm Reed Smith LLP.

The cases challenge restraints that exist for the time period during which a claim can be filed with the federal government when seeking compensation for victims of negligence in the conduct of government activities.

“Due to the nature of where they work, live and play, active duty military members, their dependent family members and our veterans tend to comprise a very large portion of FTCA claimants,” says Laurie Neff, director of the Mason legal clinic. “If the government’s position is upheld by the court, members of the military, veterans and their family members will be adversely and disproportionately impacted.”

The amicus briefs point out to the court that wounded servicemembers or servicemembers caring for injured family members may not be in a position to do the work necessary to file papers, obtain evidence or even learn the procedure to file.

“Family members at home are typically overburdened and stressed by the deployment or are in a position that without the servicemember present they can’t obtain the information they need,” Neff adds. “A servicemember or dependent family member may be hesitant to seek information beyond an initial request for fear of reprisal” due to the rank structure of the military.

The Supreme Court will hear the cases in the current term.

Write to Buzz McClain at bmcclai2@gmu.edu