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Supreme Court of the United States
March 25, 2022, Decided
[*348] Application for a partial stay presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court granted. The district court’s January 3, 2022 order, insofar as it precludes the Navy from considering respondents’ vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, is stayed pending disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this order shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the order shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court. Justice Thomas would deny the application for a partial stay. Concurring opinion by Justice Kavanaugh. Dissenting opinion by Justice Alito, with whom Justice Gorsuch joins.
Justice Thomas would deny the application for a partial stay.
Concur by: KAVANAUGH
Justice Kavanaugh, concurring.
I concur in the Court’s decision to grant the Government’s application for a partial stay of the District Court’s preliminary injunction for a simple overarching reason: Under Article II of the Constitution, the President of the United States, not any federal judge, is the Commander in Chief [**2] of the Armed Forces. In light of that bedrock constitutional principle, “courts traditionally have been reluctant to intrude upon the authority of the Executive in military and national security affairs.” Department of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 530, 108 S. Ct. 818, 98 L. Ed. 2d 918 (1988). As the Court has long emphasized, moreover, the “complex, subtle, and professional decisions as to the composition, training, equipping, and control of a military force are essentially professional military judgments.” Gilligan v. Morgan, 413 U. S. 1, 10, 93 S. Ct. 2440, 37 L. Ed. 2d 407 [*349] (1973). Therefore, it is “difficult to conceive of an area of governmental activity in which the courts have less competence.” Ibid.
In this case, the District Court, while no doubt well-intentioned, in effect inserted itself into the Navy’s chain of command, overriding military commanders’ professional military judgments. The Court relied on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. See 42 U. S. C. §2000bb-1(b). But even accepting that RFRA applies in this particular military context, RFRA does not justify judicial intrusion into military affairs in this case. That is because the Navy has an extraordinarily compelling interest in maintaining strategic and operational control over the assignment and deployment of all Special Warfare personnel—including control over decisions about military readiness. And no less restrictive means [**3] would satisfy that interest in this context.
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212 L. Ed. 2d 348 *; 2022 U.S. LEXIS 1674 **; __ S.Ct. __; 2022 WL 882559
LLOYD J. AUSTIN, III, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, ET AL. v. U. S. NAVY SEALS 1-26, ET AL.
Prior History: [**1] ON APPLICATION FOR A PARTIAL STAY
Usn Seals 1-26 v. Biden, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2268, 2022 WL 34443 (N.D. Tex., Jan. 3, 2022)
military, exemptions, religious, requests, mission, vaccination, partial, Warfare, Naval, compelling interest, accommodation, unvaccinated, deployment, decisions, personnel, preliminary injunction, least restrictive, service member, sending