They face challenges those of us in the private sector do not have to consider. Recognizing these sacrifices, Congress passed several statutes to provide relief to those who serve in the United States military. The goal of this article is to briefly outline one particular statute relevant to service members. For further discussion, contact a knowledgeable Minnesota attorney for further guidance on these complex laws.
Minnesota Military Service Members Relief Act
Following World War II, Congress passed the Soilders and Sailors Civil Relief Act and subsequently modified the Act in 2003 into the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). 50 U.S.C. App. 501 et. seq. Generally, the statute has been construed to protect United States military personnel while they defend our country. (Mark E. Sullivan, The Military Divorce Handbook 93 (American Bar Assoc. 2006).
One primary section of the statute provides relief to United States Military personnel from civil actions while on active duty. Under this provision, a service member can obtain a temporary stay from a civil action while on active duty if they provide documentation that the lawsuit will materially affect the service members ability to appear in the proceeding and a letter from the service members commanding officer that military duty prevents the service member from appearing in court. 50 U.S.C.A. 521(a)-(b).
Minnesota Case Law
Although the SCRA generally allows an extension of time for a service member to respond to a civil action, courts will intervene. In Minnesota, this has been the case. In Antioch Co. v. Scrapbook Borders, Inc., the District Court reviewed a motion for stay under the SRA in a copyright infringement case. The service member was a director on the company being accused of copyright infringement. Antioch Co. v. Scrapbook Borders, Inc., 210 F.R.D. 645, 647 (D. Ct. Minn. 2002). The service member applied for the stay on actions under the SRA. At the outset, the Court agreed the SRA is always to be liberally construed to protect those . . . [who] drop their own affairs in service of the nation. Id. at 648. However, upon examination of the service members duties, the Court believed he could readily defend the action. The facts indicated that the service member was regularly stationed in the United States and the parties can work together . . . to provide [the servicemember] with enough time and notice to appropriately accommodate his schedule. Id. at 650. Ultimately, the Court concluded that they will summarily [deny] request for a stay in circumstances . . . where the service-person has only related that he is unable [to] defend an action, without any real evidence to support the contention. Id. at 645.
Antioch Co. is certainly the exception, not the rule. As stated above, Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act for the benefit for our brave men and women serving our country.
If you are a current active duty or former military member in need of legal assistance, contact a helpful Minnesota family law attorney for advice on how to use your standing as U.S. military personnel to your advantage.
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