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Supreme Court rules Texas veteran may sue to get his job back; conservative justices dissent

David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday an injured Iraq War veteran may sue to get his job back as a Texas state trooper in accordance with a federal law guaranteeing that returning soldiers can reclaim their government positions.

But the decision came over the dissent of four conservative justices, who said the state should have a “sovereign immunity” that shields it from such lawsuits.

The decision in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety showed the court sharply divided over the powers of Congress and the rights of the states.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices in siding with the injured vet, whose plight is the kind that has previously united the bench.

Retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer spoke for the court in what may be his final opinion.

At noon on Thursday, he will officially retire, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s 104th associate justice and its first Black woman.

 

In his 28 years on the court, Breyer has regularly upheld the broad powers of Congress, particularly in the areas of war and national security.

In response to the ill treatment of vets after the Vietnam War, Breyer said Congress in 1994 gave returning veterans the right to reclaim their prior jobs with state employers and authorized lawsuits if they were refused.

The private damages suits aimed to ensure that ‘“veterans who had previously held jobs as school teachers, policemen, firemen, and other state, county, and city employees would not be denied their old jobs as reprisal for their service,” he said.

Le Roy Torres, who enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1989, was called to active duty and deployed to Iraq in 2007.

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