APPEALS COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF ALABAMA GUARDSMAN
By Phillip Rawls
Montgomery - A federal appeals court ruled in favor of an Alabama National Guardsman seeking compensation for required correspondence courses, which could set a precedent for Guardsmen in other states.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled the military code does not bar Staff Sgt. William A. Clark from seeking compensation for correspondence courses he had to take to maintain his rank and to advance in the Alabama National Guard.
Clark's attorney, Richard Dorman, said the lawsuit was filed as a class action on behalf of Army and Air National Guardsmen nationwide who have taken the courses without compensation, but the federal courts have not yet ruled on that issue. Dorman said he first had to establish that Clark could sue the federal government.
Norman Arnold, spokesman for the Alabama National Guard, declined comment because he said the Guard has a policy against commenting on pending litigation.
Clark, 55, of Silverhill, works at a music store in Mobile and plays saxophone in the Alabama National Guard's 151st Army Band in Montgomery.
A member of the Alabama National Guard since 1987, Clark sued the federal government in 2000, seeking compensation for time he spent on required correspondence courses.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims sided with the National Guard and ruled that the United States Code barred compensation. Clark appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled March 18 that the prohibition against compensation applies only to the reserve and not to the Alabama National Guard.
The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for Clark to establish which classes the secretary of the Army might have required, which of those classes Clark took and what compensation he is due.
Clark said Wednesday he hasn't figured out an amount yet, but he wants more than compensation from the National Guard.
"I want them to know our civilian time belongs to us," Clark said.