Access to Justice

RELEASE: In Torres, Important Victory for Access to Justice, Veteran Victim of “Burn Pits” 

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following reaction:

The Roberts court has far too often closed courthouse doors to those seeking justice, but today’s decision is an important exception: it is a big win for Le Roy Torres, a victim of toxic burn pits during his Iraq deployment, and for other veterans in similar positions.

Today’s 5-4 ruling holds that returning veterans can sue a state to vindicate rights granted by Congress in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which protects veterans against employment discrimination on the basis of injuries they incurred in service. The majority ruled that Congress has broad powers to protect veterans under Article I’s war powers clauses, and that states waived their immunity to suits under laws authorized by the war powers when they ratified the Constitution.

As Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court recognized, “Text, history, and precedent show that the States, in coming together to form a Union, agreed to sacrifice their sovereign immunity for the good of the common defense.” The majority’s opinion echoed the text and history laid out in CAC’s brief, which demonstrated that the Framers of the Constitution gave Congress strong powers to raise and support a military even at the expense of the states. Indeed, the Constitution’s framing was an explicit response to the Revolutionary War, which exposed the war-related shortcomings of government under the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation. The federal government’s dependence on the States, as the majority notes, “nearly cost the Nation victory in the Revolutionary War.” In what may prove to be Justice Breyer’s last, he delivered a resounding opinion that shows that the Constitution’s text and history gives Congress the power to protect the rights of veterans and empower them to sue states to vindicate their federal rights.

We are gratified by the Court’s ruling today and are incredibly pleased to have been part of helping Le Roy Torres win this important victory.



CAC case page in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety:


Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at


More from Access to Justice

Access to Justice
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Ortiz v. Foxx

In Ortiz v. Foxx, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is considering whether state court judges who administer and enforce Illinois’s name-change statute are subject to suit by a group of transgender...
Access to Justice
June 13, 2022

As SCOTUS’ conservative majority weakens civil rights, Sonia Sotomayor begs to differ

Boston Globe
In her latest dissent, Sotomayor criticizes ‘a restless and newly constituted Court.’
By: David H. Gans, By Marcela García
Access to Justice
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Wells v. Warden

In Wells v. Warden, the en banc Eleventh Circuit is considering whether dismissals for failing to exhaust administrative remedies count as strikes under the “three strikes” provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
Access to Justice
June 8, 2022

Supreme Court Again Raises Barrier to Sue Law Enforcement

Bloomberg Law
The US Supreme Court further weakened a judge-made doctrine meant to hold federal law enforcement...
By: David H. Gans, By Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson
Access to Justice
June 8, 2022

RELEASE: In Egbert, Conservative Majority Commits Grave Error that Betrays Our Constitution

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Egbert v. Boule,...
By: David H. Gans
Access to Justice
May 20, 2022

OP-ED: Justices’ Ruling Makes Some Progress On Cop Accountability

U.S. Supreme Court decisions that broaden the ability to hold police officers accountable in court are...
By: Brian R. Frazelle