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Boruski v. United States Government

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT


February 15, 1974

ERNEST F. BORUSKI, JR., APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF PRESIDENT RICHARD M. NIXON, AND SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE ROBERT C. SEAMANS, JR., APPELLEES.

Appeal from the grant of appellees' motion for summary judgment by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Charles E. Stewart, Judge, dismissing appellant's complaint on various grounds. Affirmed.

Before: LUMBARD, FRIENDLY and OAKES, Circuit Judges.

Per Curiam:

This is an appeal pro se from the granting of a motion for summary judgment dismissing appellant's complaint seeking to be restored to the active Air Force with the rank of Brigadier General, together with back pay amounting to $506,000,*fn1 in addition to compensation for damage suffered as the result of alleged inaccuracies related by military personnel at appellant's 1945 court martial and relief in the nature of mandamus against the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) in reference to appellant's file during and after his connection with the Air Force. Dismissal by the district court was based on two grounds. The first was on the basis that appellant obtained a judgment, Boruski v. United States, 140 Ct. Cl. 1, 155 F. Supp. 320 (1957), from the United States Court of Claims in 1957, holding that his honorable discharge was effective as of August 28, 1951, rather than the July 23, 1945, date at which he had erroneously been dishonorably discharged and awarding him back pay in the sum of $19,904.44 covering the period between July 23, 1945, and August 28, 1951, this judgment of the Court of Claims operating as a bar under 28 U.S.C. § 2517(b).*fn2 The second ground for dismissal by the district court was on the basis of a collateral estoppel by virtue of that judgment, the court saying that "because the validity and effective date of Boruski's 1951 discharge has actually been litigated and decided, this court may not re-litigate this issue." The district court also held that appellant had failed to state a claim upon which the relief of mandamus against the AFBCMR could be granted in light of the lapse of several years from the time appellant first raised this issue until 1969, when he raised it here, under 10 U.S.C. § 1552(b).*fn3 We affirm the judgment below.

Appellant, an Army Air Force lieutenant, was court-martialed and sentenced to dismissal from the service as of July 23, 1945, as the result of a September 23, 1944, flying accident in which a passenger was killed. This court martial was subsequently reviewed by the Judge Advocate General, who found that an injustice had been done to appellant. Accordingly, on August 28, 1951, the sentence of dismissal was vacated and replaced by an administrative discharge, honorable in nature, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 740,*fn4 under the decision of the Judge Advocate General.

The honorable discharge, however, bore the date of the earlier dismissal, July 23, 1945, rather than that of the decision of the Judge Advocate General, August 28, 1951. Subsequently, after unsuccessful administrative proceedings, appellant brought an action in the Court of Claims. This culminated in the favorable judgment and award. While rejecting his claims for advancement in rank and flight pay, the court held that his discharge should have been made effective as of August 28, 1951, and awarded back pay from July 23, 1945, to that date. See Boruski v. United States, 155 F. Supp. at 324. The judgment for back pay was paid in full by the General Accounting Office in 1958.

It was not until August 29, 1969, that appellant did anything formally to indicate his dissatisfaction with the favorable result he had secured from the Court of Claims. In 1969 he filed a claim with AFBCMR, arguing that his discharge was illegal, that he should not have been discharged at all and that he was therefore entitled to full status including promotions and back pay to date. He accompanied this petition with an application for a correction of his military records. After reapplying for this relief on May 3, 1970, and revising his application as of December 20, 1970, AFBCMR denied his applications. Appellant then brought the suit below.

The clear language and import of 28 U.S.C. § 2517(b) is that payment of a final judgment rendered by the Court of Claims against the United States "shall be a full discharge" to the United States "of all claims and demands arising out of the matters involved in the case or controversy." Appellant did not seek an award of pay up to the time of judgment in the Court of Claims, but only "all rights, privileges and property of which he was deprived by virtue of the original erroneous finding from the date sentence was executed to the date of its vacation by the Judge Advocate General." 155 F. Supp. at 323 (emphasis added). Therefore, under § 2517(b) and the general res judicata principles applied to the Court of Claims in 28 U.S.C. § 2519, appellant cannot be awarded further back pay. The issue of the validity of appellant's honorable discharge could have been presented to the Court of Claims, but was not, and the decision of the Court of Claims thus bars any suit for back pay after August 28, 1951. 155 F. Supp. at 324.*fn5

As regards the appellant's request to correct alleged errors in his files, no such formal request was made after the Court of Claims case until August 29, 1969, when he filed a claim with AFBCMR, arguing that his discharge was illegal and seeking to have the records changed accordingly. Under 10 U.S.C. § 1552(b), however, "no correction may be made unless the claimant... files a request therefor before October 26, 1961, or within three years after he discovers the error or injustice, whichever is later." While it is true that under the statute "the Board may excuse a failure to file within three years after discovery if it finds it to be in the interests of justice," the Board expressly refused to make such a finding "in light of his dilatory pursuit of this matter," since he took no action between 1957 and 1969.*fn6 In view of the non-action of appellant between 1957 and 1969, we do not find that the AFBCMR abused its discretion. For the same reasons of delay, the court was justified in refusing to order that appellant be restored to active service. Moreover, much of the relief actually sought by appellant in terms of his records he has already obtained. For example, he asked that the 1947 action of the Board for Correction of Military Records denying his request that his court martial conviction be set aside be expunged from the records, but of course the Judge Advocate General in 1951 did set aside his court martial findings and sentence, so that it is as if the 1947 Board records were null and void. So, too, appellant sought to have removed a "less-than-Superior" efficiency report for the period during which he was removed from duty, but the AFBCMR found that this report "is not presently contained in his records" and that therefore the relief which he sought to this extent had already been had. Appellant's request to change the records so as to show that he had never been properly released from active duty, of course, was properly denied in light of the fact, as we have said, that he cannot now contest his honorable discharge as of 1951.

In short, it appears that appellant was indeed originally done an injustice, but that he pursued with counsel's assistance as well as on his own the available remedies of law to enable him to correct this injustice, and ultimately obtained substantial relief by having his dishonorable discharge rescinded and an honorable discharge entered, as well as by obtaining back pay and allowances for a six-year period from the time of his original dishonorable discharge to the date of its correction to an honorable discharge in 1951. Having obtained this relief in 1957, at this late date he seeks even further and greater relief, but time and the operation of the statutes now prevent us from granting any further or new relief.

Judgment affirmed.


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