Nicely v. United States, No. 20-1856 (Fed. Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Nicely served in active duty in the Marine Corps (USMC) for more than 10 years. Between Nicely’s 2010 DUI arrest and his 2011 discharge, the state court dismissed the DUI charge but Nicely wrote a letter to his Commanding General admitting to having driven under the influence. After the Board of Inquiry proceedings began but before they ended, Nicely filed a reprisal complaint under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA), 10 U.S.C. 1034. Nicely’s complaint was dismissed in 2012. Nicely unsuccessfully petitioned the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) to correct his military record.
Nicely filed suit in the Claims Court, alleging that some BCNR members were not statutorily authorized to serve. The BCNR rejected his claim that retired military officers are precluded from sitting on military correction boards under 10 U.S.C. 1552(a), reasoning that neither BCNR’s authorizing statute nor governing regulations expressly define "civilian" and do not expressly exclude retired military members from those civilians who may serve as Board members. The Claims Court then dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Claims Court correctly concluded that Nicely’s claim arose under the MWPA and not the Military Pay Act and that it, therefore, lacked jurisdiction. The use of the term “civilian” throughout Title 10 to include former and retired members of the military is consistent with the ordinary meaning of “civilians”—that is, a person who is “not serving on active duty in the military