The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which is found at 50 U.S.C. sections 501-597b, was enacted to allow servicemembers to devote their energy to the defense needs of the nation and to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings, except criminal proceedings, that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during military service.
The following servicemembers are covered under the act: active duty members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marne Corps, and Coast Guard, members of the National Guard who are called to active duty for a period of over thirty consecutive days to respond to a national emergency, and commissioned members of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
In general, the act offers the following protections to servicemembers: protection against default judgments in legal proceedings, appointment of an attorney to represent the servicemember in legal proceedings, a ninety-day stay of the legal proceedings as well as additional stays of the legal proceedings under certain circumstances, a reduction or waiver of penalties under contracts, stays or vacation of execution of judgments, attachments, and garnishments, the tolling of statutes of limitations during military service, an interest rate limitation of 6%, protection from eviction proceedings, protection against breach of contract, protection against sale or foreclosure, the option for the servicemember to terminate residential and vehicle leases and telephone service contracts, numerous life insurance policy protections, limitations on the foreclosure or enforcement of storage liens, protections against the sale of property to enforce tax assessments and the right of property redemption, protection of publicly-held lands and mining claims, and deferral of income taxes.
In addition, the service member may have other forms of relief, including anticipatory relief, extensions of power of attorney, professional liability protection, health insurance reinstatement, guarantee of residency for military personnel and spouses, and nonbusiness assets cannot be used to satisfy business obligations.
The dependent of a servicemember may also be entitled to the protections of the act if the dependent’s ability to comply with a lease, contract, bailment, or other obligation is materially affected by reason of the servicemember’s military service.
The act can be enforced by the Attorney General or by the servicemember for violation of its provisions. In a civil action, the Attorney General may obtain any appropriate equitable or declaratory relief, money damages, and civil penalties. In a private cause of action, a servicemember may obtain any appropriate equitable or declaratory relief, money damages, court costs, and attorneys fees.