CHAPPELL V. WALLACE, 462 U. S. 296 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U.S. 296 (1983)

Chappell v. Wallace

No. 82-167

Argued April 26, 1983

Decided June 13, 1983

462 U.S. 296


Respondent Navy enlisted men brought an action for damages and other relief in Federal District Court against petitioner superior officers, alleging that petitioners in making duty assignments and performance evaluations and in imposing penalties had discriminated against respondents because of their race in violation of their constitutional rights. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the actions complained of were nonreviewable military decisions, that petitioners were entitled to immunity, and that respondents had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: Enlisted military personnel may not maintain a suit to recover damages from a superior officer for alleged constitutional violations. The special status of the military has required, the Constitution has contemplated, Congress has created, and this Court has long recognized two systems of justice: one for civilians and one for military personnel. The need for unhesitating and decisive action by military officers and equally disciplined responses by enlisted personnel would be undermined by a judicially created remedy exposing officers to personal liability at the hands of those they are charged to command. Moreover, Congress, the constitutionally authorized source of authority over the military system of justice, has not provided a damages remedy for claims by military personnel that constitutional rights have been violated by superior officers. Any action to provide a judicial response by way of such a remedy would be inconsistent with Congress' authority. Taken together, the unique disciplinary structure of the military establishment and Congress' activity in the field constitute "special factors" which dictate that it would be inappropriate to provide enlisted military personnel a Bivens-type remedy against their superior officers. Pp. 462 U. S. 298-305.

661 F.2d 729, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 462 U. S. 297

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