DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Brad Miller

Sent By: ashley.orr@mail.house.gov <mailto:ashley.orr@mail.house.gov?subject=RE: Ensure Our Servicemembers’ Access to Justice>

Bill: H.R. 2696

Date: 6/10/2009

Cosponsor the Servicemembers’ Rights Protection Act

Dear Colleague:

In 2003 Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to provide protections for servicemembers when their military service hinders their ability to meet financial obligations and they are at a great disadvantage in defending their rights in legal proceedings. The SCRA does not require the forgiveness of debts nor does it provide servicemembers absolute immunity from all civil lawsuits. Instead, the Act temporarily suspends certain judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may harm their legal rights during active duty.

The SCRA provides for penalties for violations but does not specifically state whether servicemembers have a private right of action for violation of the Act. While most courts have recognized the inherent right of individual servicemembers to bring suit for a violation of their rights under the SCRA, recent court rulings have questioned whether the Act gives servicemembers the right to protect themselves and their families evictions and foreclosure while they are deployed overseas.

In Batie v. Subway Real Estate Corp, a servicemember alleged that the defendants had violated his rights when they evicted him from two commercial spaces while he was deployed in Afghanistan. In another case, Hurley v. Deutsche Bank Trust Company, a servicemember sued the defendants after they foreclosed on and sold his home, evicting his family, while he was deployed in Iraq. The initial ruling in both cases was that the servicemembers did not have the right to bring a suit against the defendants because the SCRA does not explicitly provide servicemembers a private cause of action. The initial rulings were eventually reversed, but only after the servicemembers and their families endured prolonged legal uncertainty and considerable expense.

We introduced H.R. 2696, the Servicemembers’ Rights Protection Act, to end any ambiguity. The legislation authorizes the Attorney General to file a civil action for violation of the SCRA and allows a servicemember the right to join the Attorney General civil action. The legislation also provides that servicemembers have their own private cause of action, regardless of any enforcement action taken by the Attorney General.

Also, since many claims under the SCRA will be for relatively small amounts, the collection of attorneys’ fees will encourage settlements by those who might otherwise refuse to pay damages, calculating that the

cost of litigation would keep people from pursuing relief.

Our servicemembers should not have to worry whether their homes will be foreclosed or their families will be evicted while serving their country overseas. Denying individuals a private cause of action to enforce their rights under the SCRA threatens the readiness of our Armed Services. Please join us in ensuring that our servicemembers have access to justice.

To cosponsor, or for more information, please contact Ashley Orr (ashley.orr@mail.house.gov) with Rep. Brad Miller or John Thomas (john.thomas@mail.house.gov) with Rep. Walter Jones. We appreciate your support. Sincerely,

s/ s/

Brad Miller Walter B. Jones