One area where enlistment law has received keen scrutiny is the subject of enlistment contracts vis a vis the question of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Military Appeals’s decision in United States v. Wagner served as the keystone for the Valadez and Harrison decisions. The Court in Wagner established the concept of constructive enlistment, which it subsequently relied on in Valadez and Harrison.
In Wagner, the court addressed whether a regulatory disqualification in and of itself voids the original enlistment contract for purposes of court-martial jurisdiction. The Court stated the regulation in question was not sufficient to void Wagner’s enlistment contract. In these three cases, the Court evidenced a continued reliance on principles of contract law. The Court did not specifically delineate what statutory or regulatory provisions would render a recruit ineligible in any of these cases.
The Courts of Military Review rested court-martial jurisdiction on constructive enlistments in both Wagner and Valadez. The root of the problem in applying the concept of constructive enlistment to any given fact pattern is that the “fairness” requirement looks good on paper but poses numerous practical problems. Fairness is often reduced to whom the Court believes. If the Court believes that the Government has been consistently legitimate in its attempt to establish the military status of accused, then personal jurisdiction will vest.
The Wagner, Valadez, and Harrison decisions provide some answers and solutions to enlistment contract questions. However, the decisions also raise new issues and leave other questions unanswered.
David A. Schlueter, Wagner, Valadez and Harrison: A Definitive Enlistment Trilogy, Aʀᴍʏ Lᴀᴡ. 4 (Jᴀɴ 1979).