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BOSTON � Several former U.S. government employees have filed a class action challenging the Selective Service System � which requires young men to register for a potential draft � alleging that their careers were cut short or adversely affected by their failure to register. The lawsuit, which began with one Massachusetts plaintiff who formerly worked for the Internal Revenue Service, has since attracted three other plaintiffs. They others are a California forest firefighter who has been terminated by the Bureau of Land Management, a Michigan man who was fired by the IRS and a Washington man who worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Elgin v. U.S. Treasury, No. 1:07-cv-12391 (D. Mass.). Males only The lawsuit claims that the Selective Service System violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because it affects only males. It also claims that the system is a bill of attainder, or law that violates the Constitution because it imposes punishment on a person or group of people without a right to a trial. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Harvey Schwartz of Boston-based Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz, originally filed the case on behalf of the Massachusetts plaintiff in December, but he added the other three plaintiffs in February after they contacted him. This month, Schwartz filed a motion for summary judgment for the bill of attainder claim. Although bill of attainder cases are very rare, Schwartz said the statute fits the definition. “It is a crime not to register with selective service. Guys who don’t register could be tried and punished, but this is an end run around that,” Schwartz said. Plaintiff-side employment lawyer David Sanford of Sanford Wittels & Heisler in Washington, who isn’t involved in the case, believes the case will be “very difficult if not impossible” to win on the equal protection ground because a 1981 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “women who were excluded from combat service by statute [are] not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.” Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981). Using the language of the statute to challenge the adverse actions might be an easier route, Sanford said. He noted that, although the statute says that a willful or knowing failure to register makes a person ineligible for appointment to a job in an executive agency, it doesn’t specifically state that it is ground for termination. “If I were the plaintiffs’ attorney I would argue they would be reinstated because the grounds for termination is not supported by statute,” Sanford said. The U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, which is handling the case for the government, declined to comment. In its memo supporting the motion to dismiss, the government cited Rostker and a second Supreme Court case, which held that a law barring men who failed to register from receiving financial aid is not a bill of attainder. Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, 486 U.S. 841, 847 (1984).

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