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Magneson v. Mabus

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 30, 2015

RAYMOND EDWIN MABUS, JR., in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Navy, Defendant

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For RAYMOND EDWIN MABUS, JR., in his official capacity as Secretary of the Navy, Defendant: Laura Emily Jennings, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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TANYA S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Israel Magneson challenges the denial of his application to correct his military record by the Board for Correction of Naval Records (operating under authority delegated by the Secretary of the Navy). Shortly after this case was filed, it was referred to a Magistrate Judge for full case management. The parties previously filed a motion to dismiss and cross-motions for summary judgment, and in August 2013 the Magistrate Judge denied these motions without prejudice to allow Magneson to replead to articulate facts establishing this Court's jurisdiction. Magneson filed his amended complaint in October 2013, and before the Court are the parties' second cross-motions for summary judgment. The Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation on October 28, 2014. Because the case will be remanded for the Board to consider one of Plaintiff's arguments in the first instance, the Court need not reach the analysis in the Report and Recommendation and will not adopt it at this time. Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part and Defendant's motion is denied.


Magneson is a former Lieutenant in the United States Navy. In February 2009, he was assigned as the Chief Engineer on the USS REUBEN JAMES. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5). At that time, his Planned Rotation Date--meaning the date he would rotate to a new position on another vessel--was February 2011. (Administrative Record (" AR" ) 46).

During Magneson's tenure, the Commanding Officer of the JAMES (the " CO" ) had multiple discussions with Magneson to address issues related to Magneson's allegedly deficient performance. In addition to these verbal discussions, Magneson received two Letters of Instruction that identified the CO's specific concerns and

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required Magneson to take corrective actions. (AR 18-19; 22-23). After the CO determined that Magneson's performance remained unsatisfactory, on July 2, 2010 the CO forwarded to Naval Personnel Command a request that Magneson be Detached for Cause (" DFC" ) from the JAMES. (AR 15-24). A DFC removes an officer from their current post before their normal transfer or planned rotation date.

DFCs are processed according to Military Personnel Manual (" Manual" ) section 1611-020. (Def. Mot. Ex. 1). Once a DFC is requested, the officer is given a chance to respond (which Magneson did). (AR 25-30). The request (along with the officer's rebuttal) is then forwarded through the chain of command back to the Naval Personnel Command, with each officer in the chain endorsing the request. According to Manual 1611-020(11)(h), " [e]xpeditious processing and forwarding of a DFC request is mandatory" and " [i]n the absence of unusual circumstances, the DFC request should be forwarded within 5 working days of receipt by each command in the routing chain." (Def. Mot. Ex. 1 at 8-9). In this case, the DFC was endorsed five times by four different officers. (Def. Mot. 4; AR 31-34). The first occurred when the CO originally requested the DFC; the CO then endorsed the DFC a second time on July 30, 2010 after receiving Magneson's rebuttal. The third, fourth, and fifth endorsements occurred on August 17, September 11, and September 23, 2010, respectively. (AR 32-34). The Naval Personnel Command acknowledged receipt of the fully endorsed DFC request on January 5, 2011, but advised the CO that it would not be completed prior to Magneson's Planned Rotation Date in February 2011. As a result, Magneson's Planned Rotation Date was extended to March 2011.

At the same time the DFC request was pending, Magneson was also eligible for promotion to Lieutenant Commander. The officers who endorsed the DFC did not recommend that Magneson be removed from the promotion list, but his promotion was nonetheless delayed because of the pending DFC request. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15). On March 10, 2011 (approximately one month after Magneson was notified that his promotion was delayed), Naval Personnel Command formally approved the DFC request.

Because of the likelihood that a DFC would prevent him from being promoted, in early May 2011[1] Magneson submitted an application to the Board for Correction of Naval Records (" BCNR" ) requesting that the DFC order be expunged from his record and he be promoted to Lieutenant Commander. The BCNR is a board established by the Secretary of the Navy and is comprised of civilians who review applications to correct naval records. " Its function is to consider applications properly before it for the purpose of determining the existence of error or injustice in the naval records of current and former members of the Navy and Marine Corps, to make recommendations to the Secretary or to take corrective action on the Secretary's behalf when authorized." 32 C.F.R. § 723.2; see also 10 U.S.C. ยง 1552. The BCNR reviews " all pertinent evidence of record" and will deny an application where it finds " ...

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