WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a woman who says she was raped as a West Point cadet, with Justice Clarence Thomas alone arguing that the court should have heard her case.
The woman, who attended the U.S. Military Academy from 2008 to 2010, had sued saying the academy’s leadership tolerated a culture that was hostile toward women and failed to provide adequate support for cadets who are assaulted, among other things. But lower courts said her lawsuit against the U.S. government couldn’t go forward.
Thomas said in a dissent that the high court should have taken the case to reconsider a 70-year-old precedent that prevents members of the military from suing the United States when they are injured while doing their duties.
“Under our precedent, if two Pentagon employees—one civilian and one a servicemember—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 claim on the merits,” Thomas wrote in a 3-page dissent.
In the West Point case, lower courts said the woman’s claims were barred by the so-called Feres doctrine, which comes from a 1950 Supreme Court case. In it, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Tort Claims Act does not give members of the military the ability to sue the United States for injuries that “arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to” their active duty service in the military.