WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, legislation that will provide veterans and their families who are suffering due to water contamination at Camp Lejeune, N.C long-overdue judicial relief. The legislation proposes to correct unintended injuries unique to Marine families stationed at Camp Lejeune due to an anomaly in the application of North Carolina law in the federal court system.
Senator Tillis has been a leading advocate for servicemembers and veterans exposed to toxicants at Camp Lejeune since being sworn-in in 2015. In 2019, he co-introduced The Janey Ensminger Act to ensure individuals with diseases scientifically linked to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina receive proper medical care from the VA. This week, the Senate VA Committee passed landmark legislation introduced by Senator Tillis that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“As the Senator from North Carolina, I have worked alongside veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and exposed to toxicants for years to finally give them the health care and benefits they deserve,” said Senator Tillis. “Due to a convoluted trail of legal interpretations, the current application of North Carolina law keeps veterans and their families affected by water contamination issues at Camp Lejeune from getting their day in court for often-crippling and deadly medical conditions they have suffered. This legislation provides a fix so these victims will be treated like others would be treated in other states and territories.”
Under federal court procedures, federal courts are guided, in many instances, by state laws. When there is confusion as to controlling law or a need for clarification of state law, federal procedure allows for a certification process between the federal system and the highest court within a state’s system to determine the controlling state law. In water contamination cases from Camp Lejeune, the state of North Carolina did not have this procedure. Therefore, federal courts have been required to apply the North Carolina legal anomaly and to accept a position asserted by federal lawyers -- even though under Senator Tillis’ leadership as Speaker of the House, North Carolina has since taken necessary corrective action to show that North Carolina law is contrary to what the federal attorneys asserted.