In the case of Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, the Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled in favor of veterans who want to file litigation to reclaim their past employment with state personnel.
Therefore, a divided court permitted a veteran to file a federal rights violation lawsuit against a state agency employer.
When Le Roy Torres was called to active service in the U.S. Army Reserves, he was employed as a Texas state trooper. He served in Iraq and received an honorable discharge, but the burn pits the military used to get rid of hazardous waste destroyed his lungs. He wanted to be given a position in the Department of Public Safety that was comparable because upon his return, his injuries prevented him from carrying out all the duties of a state trooper. He claims that the department was unwilling to work with him.
Holding: By ratifying the Constitution, the states agreed their sovereignty would yield to the national power to raise and support the Armed Forces; Congress may exercise this power to authorize private damages suits against non-consenting states, as in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Breyer on June 29, 2022. Justice Kagan filed a concurring opinion. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett joined.
In his decision, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that “Upon entering the Union, the States implicitly agreed that their sovereignty would yield to federal policy to build and keep a national military. States thus gave up their immunity from congressionally authorized suits pursuant to the ‘plan of the Convention,’ as part of ‘the structure of the original Constitution itself.’”
Conservatives included Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The majority’s conclusion, according to Thomas’ dissent, is based on “contrived interpretations” of the court’s earlier rulings, which Thomas defined as “having an artificial or deceptive look or quality.”
More on this story via The Republic Brief:
Thomas dissent wrote, “But the Court’s proposed distinction makes no sense. For one, it conflicts with the Court’s longstanding characterization of Congress’ commerce power as plenary. See, e.g., Armour & Co. v. Virginia, 246 U. S. 1, 6 (1918). As long as the goods mentioned by the Court are in fact part of “interstate commerce,” then Congress has authority to regulate their travel at all times. For another, it does nothing to distinguish Congress’ commerce power from its power to raise and maintain a military.
Following the Court’s logic, one could just as easily say that Congress’ power under the Army and Navy Clauses is “less than complete” because “federal regulation of soldiers involves men and women who, before they join the military, are subject to regulation by a sovereign other than the Federal Government.” Despite the Court’s efforts, its “completeness” analysis simply fails to distinguish the Army and Navy Clauses from other Article I powers delegated to Congress in the plan of the Convention.”