26 May 2010

Servicemembers reimbursement bill introduced in House for costs of hiring a civilian attorney

[Updated 30 May 2010 with correct links.]

Yesterday Rep. Kay Granger (R - Texas) introduced the Service Members Legal Relief Act, H.R. 5374, which is a bill "to provide for reimbursement of attorney fees incurred by a member of the Armed Forces who retains private counsel in response to certain charges brought against the member under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is acquitted or has the charges dismissed or withdrawn." The bill, as of this evening, has thirty co-sponsors -- all Republican -- which are listed here on Thomas.

In introducing H.R. 5374, Rep. Granger, said that "soldiers who seek the best defense available and are subsequently acquitted, or the charges dropped, in cases relating to the handling of terrorists. Our warfighters face great personal risk every day on the front lines in the global war on terror. They are right to defend themselves in court against egregious claims from known terrorists."

"We need these men on the front lines to continue battling those who are actively trying to kill Americans at home and abroad. If a court finds that they have done nothing wrong and have simply executed their mission, we should repay their legal fees and get them back into action as quickly as possible. That’s exactly what my legislation does," said Rep. Granger. You can read Rep. Granger's floor remarks here.

The bill has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee and will most likely be referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. It will be interesting to see a Congressional Budget Office estimate on this bill. The bill is retroactive and if passed would cover the civilian attorney fees of the recently acquitted Navy SEALs.

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