The Risk Manager, Spring 2004

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act was superseded by the SCRA on December 19, 2003. The SCRA is a major revision of prior law. Lawyers giving advice to servicemembers and their families must be thoroughly familiar with the SCRA to assure that they receive the full protection of this important law and to avoid malpractice. What follows are highlights of the new law to alert you to the significance of the changes and inform your research.

  • The SCRA defines military service to provide more extensive coverage for National Guard members in federal service.
  • The definition of court now includes “an administrative agency of the United States or any State” and the SCRA applies to “any judicial or administrative proceeding commenced in any court or agency.”
    • A servicemember’s legal representative may be an “attorney acting on the behalf of a service member” or an “individual possessing a power of attorney.”
    • The SCRA controls when a court or administrative agency may enter a default judgment against a servicemember including a new provision that provides for an automatic initial stay of proceedings for ninety days if requested.
    • Procedures for obtaining and applying the six percent interest cap on pre-service loans are clarified.
    • The SCRA includes new rules concerning termination of pre-service and during-service leases including automobile leases. These provisions are major changes from the old law.
    • The SCRA increases substantially the amount of life insurance for which a servicemember may request premium deferment.
    • The SCRA provisions allowing for the suspension of professional liability insurance coverage during active service by professionals specifically includes those providing legal service. During the suspension the insurer is required to provide coverage for claims based on pre-service acts and must reinstate coverage if requested by the professional upon the conclusion of active service.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Pub. L. No. 108-189, 117 Stat. 2835 (2003), should be studied by all lawyers providing legal service to servicemembers and their families. A Google search will give you the law and a treasure trove of articles on its impact.

Source: Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Replaces Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, John T. Meixell, Army Law., Dec. 2003, at 38.