Midshipman's federal case continues with stay order after judge doesn't make ruling Friday
By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: October 31, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — The Naval Academy still cannot expel a midshipman after a federal judge did not make a decision Friday on a preliminary injunction filed by the cadet's attorney, continuing a standing stay order barring his removal.
First Class Midshipman Chase Standage faces expulsion from the Naval Academy after academy leadership found he violated its social media policy and had conduct unbecoming a midshipman due to a series of tweets deemed to be inappropriate and, in some cases, racist.
But his expulsion continues to be prohibited after federal Judge Ellen Hollander ordered nothing continue until her decision on the preliminary injunction filed by Standage's attorney Jeffrey McFadden. Hollander ordered the initial stay on Oct. 1.
In a hearing Friday, Hollander did not decide on the injunction. Most of Friday's hearing involved the judge asking questions of the two attorneys, in some cases questioning whether Standage was guilty of the charges.
Hollander called Standage's tweets politically incorrect and, in some cases, "repugnant." But she also questioned if the separation was the right result for what she called a mistake and poor judgment by a 21-year-old man.
"I come back to, at the end of the day, he's a senior in college," she said.
McFadden called the military process "broken," and said in his arguments that it did not make sense for Standage to continue going through the administrative steps.
"It's a flawed process," he said. "It's a deeply flawed process that's not going to be changed by a ruling of the assistant secretary of the Navy manpower and reserve affairs."
Hollander's stay order prohibits Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck from issuing a memorandum report, which would include the recommendation to separate Standage from the academy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs. Once the memorandum report is filed, Standage has a chance to produce a show cause statement.
U.S. Attorney Kelly Marzullo said that by skipping the process and going to a preliminary injunction, Standage could set a precedent for other midshipmen, which would cause harm to the military's functioning. Marzullo represents Buck and Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite
Hollander, McFadden and U.S. Attorney Kelly Marzullo will have a teleconference about the order on Tuesday.
Standage has approximately six weeks left at the academy, as he is planning to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland as part of the Volunteer Graduate Education Program in the spring. That is in jeopardy if he is expelled.
Hollander said it is not likely she will be able to rule on the preliminary injunction and the dismissal motion before the fall semester ends.
The hearing lasted approximately three and a half hours before Hollander called for a recess. It is a complex case, she said, and she has other cases, as well, explaining why she needs more than six weeks to make a decision.
"This is the type of case that keeps you up at night as a judge," she said.
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