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Supreme Court of the United States
March 29, 2022, Argued; June 29, 2022, Decided
[*2460] Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
] The Constitution vests in [***8] Congress the power “[t]o raise and support Armies” and “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy.” Art. I, §8, cls. 1, 12-13. Pursuant to that authority, Congress enacted a federal law that gives returning veterans the right to reclaim their prior jobs with state [**817] employers and authorizes suit if those employers refuse to accommodate them. See Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U. S. C. §4301 et seq. This case asks whether States may invoke sovereign immunity as a legal defense to block such suits.
In our view, they cannot. 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.’” PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey, 594 U. S. ___, ___, 141 S. Ct. 2244, 210 L. Ed. 2d 624, 641 (2021) (quoting Alden v. Maine, 527 U. S. 706, 728, 119 S. Ct. 2240, 144 L. Ed. 2d 636 (1999)).
] Congress has “broad and sweeping” power “to raise and support armies.” United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367, 377, 88 S. Ct. 1673, 20 L. Ed. 2d 672 (1968). It has long exercised that power to encourage service in the Armed Forces in a variety of ways. See, e.g., Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., 547 U. S. 47, 58, 126 S. Ct. 1297, 164 L. Ed. 2d 156 (2006) (campus recruiting); Johnson v. Robison, 415 U. S. 361, 376, 94 S. Ct. 1160, 39 L. Ed. 2d 389 (1974) (educational benefits). Since before the United States’ entry into World War II, Congress has sought, in particular, to smooth volunteers’ reentry into civilian life by recognizing veterans’ [***9] “right to return to civilian employment without adverse effect on . . . career progress” in the federal work force and private employment. H. R. Rep. No. 105-448, p. 2 (1998); see Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, §§8(b)(A)-(B), (e), 54 Stat. 890, 891 (damages remedy against private employers).
The Vietnam War prompted Congress to extend these protections to employment by States. Amidst political opposition to the war, “some State and local jurisdictions ha[d] demonstrated a reluctance, and even [*2461] an unwillingness, to reemploy” returning servicemembers. S. Rep. No. 93-907, p. 110 (1974). So Congress authorized private damages suits against States 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. Ibid. The statute at issue, USERRA, embodies these protections today.
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142 S. Ct. 2455 *; 213 L. Ed. 2d 808 **; 2022 U.S. LEXIS 3221 ***; 29 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 561; 2022 WL 2334306
LE ROY TORRES, PETITIONER v. TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
Notice: The pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Subsequent History: On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Torres, 2022 Tex. App. LEXIS 5793 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi, Aug. 11, 2022)
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, THIRTEENTH DISTRICT
Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Torres, 583 S.W.3d 221, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 9431, 2018 WL 6067300 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi, Nov. 20, 2018)
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
sovereign immunity, immunity, surrender, powers, Convention, courts, Army, federal government, suits, military, war power, sovereignty, eminent domain power, federal power, private suit, nonconsenting, sovereign, authorize, abrogate, state court, plan-of-the-Convention, Navy, delegated, commerce, slip opinion, consented, quotation, marks, private damage, ratified
Constitutional Law, State Sovereign Immunity, Abrogation of Immunity, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Claims By & Against, Congressional Duties & Powers, War Powers Clause, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Eminent Domain Proceedings, State Condemnations, The Presidency, Commander in Chief, Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Leaves of Absence, Military Leaves