Important Case About #TheyLied Libel Lawsuits Against Federal Employees
From Hockenberry v. U.S., decided today by the Tenth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Joel Carson, joined by Judges Nancy Moritz and Paul Kelly:
Hockenberry is a Captain in the United States Army and Kalas is an Army Reserve Captain. In 2016, Hockenberry and Kalas were employed as attorneys at Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma. Hockenberry was a special victims prosecutor and Kalas was a civilian legal assistance attorney. Beginning in May 2016, Hockenberry and Kalas became involved in a consensual sexual relationship. In August 2016, Kalas made statements accusing Hockenberry of sexual assault and other misconduct to work colleagues, an officer with the Lawton Police Department, and a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at Fort Sill. The Army brought formal charges of sexual and physical assault against Hockenberry under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charges were referred to a general court-martial [and led to an acquittal on all charges -EV].
Hockenberry sued Kalas in Oklahoma state court for, among other things, libel, but the U.S. “certified under 28 U.S.C. § 2679 that Kalas was acting within the scope of her federal employment when she made such statements”:
The United States argued … that, under Army Command Policy and the Army’s rules of professional conduct applicable to attorneys, Kalas was required to report to appropriate Army personnel a fellow soldier’s sexual assault and other misconduct. It asserted that Army policy also recognizes that victims of sexual assault may confide in friends or family members before making an official report. As to Kalas’s report to the Lawton Police Department, the United States claimed that, under Army procedures, persons seeking a Military Protective Order (“MPO”) are advised to also seek a
Article from Reason.com