Articles Posted in Military Law

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Robert and Janice married in 1964; in 1986, they divorced. In the meantime, after 20 years of service, Robert had retired from the United States Air Force. In a stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded Janice her community property interest in Robert’s military retired pay. In 2012, it was determined that Robert had a combat-related disability. As a result, he became eligible to receive both veteran’s disability benefits and combat-related special compensation (CRSC); to do so, however, he had to waive his retired pay. Before the waiver, Robert received $791 a month and Janice received $541 in retired pay (taxable). After the waiver, Robert received $1,743 a month in veteran’s disability benefits and $1,389 a month in CRSC, for a total of $3,132 (tax-free); Janice received nothing. The trial court ordered Robert to start paying Janice $541 a month in permanent and nonmodifiable spousal support. Robert appealed, contending: (1) under federal law, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to make any award to Janice based on Robert’s receipt of either veteran’s disability benefits or CRSC; (2) the trial court erred by using spousal support as a remedy for the loss of a community property interest; (3) the trial court erred by making its award of spousal support nonmodifiable; (4) because the judgment dividing the community property was long-since final, the trial court could not give Janice any remedy for the loss of her community property interest in the retired pay; (5) all of Robert's income was exempt, therefore could not be required to satisfy Janice's claim; and (6) Janice was not entitled to spousal support, and the trial court abused its discretion by finding otherwise. The Court of Appeal agreed federal law prohibited the trial court from compensating Janice, in the form of spousal support or otherwise, for the loss of her share of Robert’s retired pay. However, it could properly modify spousal support, provided it did so based on the relevant factors and not as compensation. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with directions to hold a new trial on Janice’s request for a modification of spousal support. View "In re Marriage of Cassinelli" on Justia Law

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Robert and Janice married in 1964; in 1986, they divorced. In the meantime, after 20 years of service, Robert had retired from the United States Air Force. In a stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded Janice her community property interest in Robert’s military retired pay. In 2012, it was determined that Robert had a combat-related disability. As a result, he became eligible to receive both veteran’s disability benefits and combat-related special compensation (CRSC); to do so, however, he had to waive his retired pay. Before the waiver, Robert received $791 a month and Janice received $541 in retired pay (taxable). After the waiver, Robert received $1,743 a month in veteran’s disability benefits and $1,389 a month in CRSC, for a total of $3,132 (tax-free); Janice received nothing. The trial court ordered Robert to start paying Janice $541 a month in permanent and nonmodifiable spousal support. Robert appealed, contending: (1) under federal law, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to make any award to Janice based on Robert’s receipt of either veteran’s disability benefits or CRSC; (2) the trial court erred by using spousal support as a remedy for the loss of a community property interest; (3) the trial court erred by making its award of spousal support nonmodifiable; (4) because the judgment dividing the community property was long-since final, the trial court could not give Janice any remedy for the loss of her community property interest in the retired pay; (5) all of Robert's income was exempt, therefore could not be required to satisfy Janice's claim; and (6) Janice was not entitled to spousal support, and the trial court abused its discretion by finding otherwise. The Court of Appeal agreed federal law prohibited the trial court from compensating Janice, in the form of spousal support or otherwise, for the loss of her share of Robert’s retired pay. However, it could properly modify spousal support, provided it did so based on the relevant factors and not as compensation. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with directions to hold a new trial on Janice’s request for a modification of spousal support. View "In re Marriage of Cassinelli" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case is the scope of the Governor’s responsibilities upon receiving an allegation brought under the California Military Whistleblower Protection Act, Military and Veterans Code section 56 (Section 56), referred by the inspector general. Major Dwight Stirling, a part-time judge advocate in the California National Guard, brought a petition for writ of mandate in the trial court to compel Governor Edmund Brown, Jr. (the Governor) to act on Stirling’s whistleblower allegation in accordance with Section 56, subdivisions (d) and (f)(1). Stirling argued that Section 56(e) required the Governor to undertake the same preliminary determination, investigation, and reporting that was required of the inspector general under Section 56, subdivisions (d) and (f)(1). The Attorney General, representing the Governor, argued Section 56(e) did not require the Governor to take any particular action on a whistleblower allegation and permitted the Governor to defer to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, who was a federal military officer responsible for heading the federal agency that controlled the United States Army National Guard. The trial court sustained without leave to amend the Attorney General’s demurrer to Stirling’s amended petition for writ of mandate. Because the Court of Appeal was reviewing a judgment following an order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend, its analysis was necessarily limited to the pleadings and matters of which it could take judicial notice. The Court concluded Section 56 was unambiguous, and its plain language did not require the Governor to undertake the procedures required of the inspector general in response to a whistleblower allegation. The Court of Appeal also concluded, based on the appellate record, that Section 56 did not violate California’s equal protection clause because in all cases a whistleblower allegation is referred to an impartial decision maker who has discretion whether to undertake a full investigation. View "Stirling v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In 1964, appellant Robert Cassinelli and respondent Janice Cassinelli were married; in 1986, they divorced. In the meantime, after 20 years of service, Robert had retired from the United States Air Force. In a stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded Janice her community property interest in Robert’s military retired pay. In 2012, it was determined that Robert had a combat-related disability. As a result, he became eligible to receive both veteran’s disability benefits and combat-related special compensation (CRSC); to do so, however, he had to waive his retired pay. Before the waiver, Robert received $791 a month and Janice received $541 in retired pay (taxable). After the waiver, Robert received $1,743 a month in veteran’s disability benefits and $1,389 a month in CRSC, for a total of $3,132 (tax-free); Janice received zero. As a result, the trial court ordered Robert to start paying Janice $541 a month in permanent and nonmodifiable spousal support. Robert appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed that the trial court erred by using spousal support as a remedy for the loss of a community property interest. However, it could properly order Robert to reimburse Janice for her lost community property interest; doing so would not have violated either federal law or finality principles. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with directions to enter an order awarding Janice the same amount on a different theory. View "Marr. of Cassinelli" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeals' review was whether one spouse’s unilateral election (after a settlement agreement and judgment of dissolution) to change from one type of military benefit (retirement that was taxable and community property) to another type of military benefit (combat-related special compensation that was not taxable and separate property) could defeat the community property interest of the other spouse set forth in the marital settlement agreement. The Court determined that one spouse could not, by invoking a condition wholly within his control, defeat the community interest of the other spouse. The trial court here correctly determined that "the post-judgment election" by appellant Philip Chapman did not relieve him of his agreement to pay respondent Judy Chapman $475 per month for her community property share of his military retirement. The Court reversed the trial court’s order, however, because the remedy the court selected was improper. The trial court imposed a constructive trust on the funds received by Philip as combat-related special compensation benefits. But the remedy of a constructive trust was available only for wrongful conduct. View "Marriage of Chapman" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was charged with misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a), and driving while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his blood in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (b). He pled not guilty, and moved for military diversion under Penal Code section 1001.80. Section 1001.80 authorizes a trial court to grant pretrial diversion to a defendant charged with a misdemeanor if the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and suffers from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her military service. Based on the rules of statutory construction, the language of section 1001.80 and Vehicle Code section 23640, and the legislative history of section 1001.80, the court concluded that Vehicle Code section 23640 does not bar pretrial diversion for veterans or active duty members of the military who meet the criteria of section 1001.80 and are charged in a DUI case. The court urged the Legislature to act by amending section 1001.80 to express its intent with regard to military diversion in DUI cases. Therefore, the court discharged the order to show cause and ordered a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Appellate Division to vacate its order denying petitioner's petition for writ of mandate, and to make a new and different order granting the petition. View "Hopkins v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Mother Mari M. appealed a juvenile court order that her son M.M., born June 2013, was a child described by Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (a). The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency received a report of severe domestic violence between mother and Rogers M., minor's father, which had taken place on December 2, 2014 and which had been witnessed by minor. The domestic violence included father choking mother while holding minor; father throwing mother into a piano, a table and onto the floor while minor was "at their feet"; father pinning mother on the floor at least two times; father breaking mother's phone; and mother hitting and kicking father and shredding his shirt among other allegations. The December 2 domestic violence incident came to light two days later when Mother contacted father's naval command and sought a military protective order (MPO). Mother contended the juvenile court erred when it: (1) assumed permanent jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act after officials and a supreme court judge from minor's "home state" of Japan unambiguously and repeatedly stated it was inappropriate under their legal system for a Japanese court to communicate with the juvenile court regarding this case; (2) failed to advise her that she could commence a separate custody action in Japan; and (3) found minor a dependent under subdivision (a) of Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, rather than under subdivision (b) of that statute. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law

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Lanquist and Temple served as midshipmen at the Academy for four years before they became commissioned naval officers. Both men later became employees of Ventura County. They are members of VCERA, which permits employees to purchase retirement service credit for time spent in military service. It excludes time spent as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. VCERA denied their requests to purchase retirement service credit for midshipmen service at the Academy. At a hearing before the VCERA retirement board, they presented evidence that as midshipmen at the Academy they were compensated as active duty servicemen and experienced hardships and dangers on surface cruises with active naval vessels similar to those experienced by commissioned officers. The trial court upheld the denial, holding that VCERA's policy of denying retirement service credit for service at the Academy is "appropriate" in view of state and federal authorities interpreting the terms "public service," and "active duty." The court of appeal reversed. "Military service" includes service as a midshipman, Gov. Code, 31450. View "Lanquist v. Ventura Cnty. Emps.' Ret. Ass'n" on Justia Law