Case Settled! Midshipman Standage vs. Secretary of the Navy et al.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Today, a settlement order was filed by Judge Ellen Hollander of the US District of Maryland in the case of MIDN 1/C Chase Standage versus the Secretary of the Navy and Superintendent of the US Naval Academy et al:

Case 1:20-cv-02830-ELH Document 106 Filed 02/24/21 Page 1 of 1

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND

  1. Civil Action No. ELH-20-2830

CHASE STANDAGE

Plaintiff

KENNETH BRAITHWAITE, et al

Defendants

*****

SETTLEMENT ORDER
(LOCAL RULE 111)

This Court has been advised by the parties that the above action has been settled, including all counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party claims, if any. Accordingly, pursuant to Local Rule 111 it is ORDERED that:

This action is hereby dismissed and each party is to bear its own costs unless otherwise agreed, in which event the costs shall be adjusted between the parties in accordance with their agreement. The entry of this Order is without prejudice to the right of a party to move for good cause within 30 days to reopen this action if settlement is not consummated. If no party moves to reopen, the dismissal shall be with prejudice.

Date: February 24, 2021         __________/s/_____

Ellen L. Hollander

United States District Judge

Background. Midshipman First Class Chase Standage was accused of two conduct charges for posting Twitter tweets from an account that did not associate him with the military and that were arbitrarily deemed to be “conduct unbecoming a midshipman,” an offense under Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Rather than conducting a court-martial under UCMJ, US Naval Academy leadership chose to adjudicate his case via internal administrative processes that resulted in USNA’s pending recommendation to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs [ASN(M&RA)] to separate him from the Navy and require him to reimburse USNA for the costs-to-date of his education.

MIDN Standage promptly filed a lawsuit and a motion for a preliminary injunction in a Maryland district court, and a temporary injunction was granted on 1 October. The basis for his lawsuit was the violation of his First Amendment rights, including viewpoint discrimination, and his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. The government subsequently filed an opposition and motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Standage’s lawyer filed a reply and opposition to the government’s motion to dismiss.

The US Naval Academy Superintendent, VADM Sean Buck, USN, had recommended MIDN Standage’s dismissal from USNA and separation from the Navy. The final decision on that recommendation was the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (Gregory Slavonic).

A virtual hearing was held on 19 February after which the judge issued an order keeping MIDN Standage in place at USNA while the case was adjudicated. The principals apparently reached a settlement that was filed in court today.

Speculation. While I am, of course, not privy to the details of the settlement, I can speculate on what it certainly must contain. In past discussions with the Standage family, I simply cannot imagine them agreeing to a settlement without their son having been fully reinstated as a first class (senior) midshipman in line to graduate with the rest of his class this year. I could be proven wrong, but I believe he will indeed graduate on time with the Class of 2021! And that he will continue with his master’s program in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland – which he started last month.

Great news!

The end.