Cioca et al. v. Rumsfeld et al.

On November 19, oral arguments were held for the case. On December 13, 2011, a U.S. district court judge granted the Department of Defense’s motion to dismiss the case, which argued that the Supreme Court has found that members of the armed forces cannot sue the military for injuries incurred while serving, including sexual assaults.

During the first week of January, lawyer Susan Burke filed an appeal. Oral arguments will be held in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the coming months.

Burke and several of the plaintiffs from the case, including the named plaintiff Kori Cioca, are featured in The Invisible War, a documentary about sexual assault in the military. The documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January 2012 and won the Audience Award.

Case History

Sixteen veteran and active duty servicemen and servicewomen who, while serving in the US Military, have been raped, sexually assaulted, and harassed by active duty members of the military filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense. They are basing their complaint as a violation of their constitutional rights.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants failed to prevent plaintiffs and others from being raped and sexually assaulted. Defendants failed to (1) investigate rapes and sexual assaults, (2) prosecute perpetrators, (3) provide an adequate judicial system as required by the Uniform Military Justice Act, and (4) abide by Congressional deadlines to implement Congressionally-ordered institutional reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults.

They are also seeking monetary damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 397 (1971) and Davis v. Passman, 442 US 228 (1979) to compensate plaintiffs for being raped, assaulted and harassed while serving this nation as members of the military. However, the plaintiffs who have chosen to participate in the class action are involved in this case not to receive financial compensation but to try to achieve change within the military.

The case was filed in US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, on February 15, 2011. The case has been accepted for docketing and the lawyers anticipate the government will file to dismiss the case. Right now the big legal hurdle is if they can keep the case in court. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are researching and writing a white paper detailing changes and reforms they want the military to make regarding sexual assault and would be willing to drop the suit if the military adopts it.

Case Adopted May 2011