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Appeals court upholds stop-loss extensions of military service

[JURIST] Following up a 3-sentence order [PDF] issued early last month [Seattle Post-Intelligencer report], a panel of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday issued a full ruling upholding the US military's power to issue emergency "stop-loss" orders to keep soldiers on active duty beyond the time set in their service contracts. The court rejected the contention [US Ninth Circuit oral argument audio; WMP] of Oregon Army National Guardsman Emiliano Santiago, a sergeant now posted to Afghanistan whose original term of enlistment ran out in 2004, that the orders validly applied only to reserve units on active duty. It held that the "plain language" of the federal law at issue gave the president authority to suspend the retirement or separation "of any member of the armed forces who the president determines is essential to the national security". Read the full text of the opinion [PDF]. Stop-loss has been severely criticized by a variety of soldiers and analysts as being unduly disruptive to the lives of military personnel and constituting, in fact, a "back-door draft". Other legal challenges to the policy are still in play. Reuters has more. Watch a February 2005 PBS NewsHour feature on stop-loss [RP], featuring comments by Santiago, his lawyers, and military officials.

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