At any stage thereof any action or proceeding in any court in which a person in military service is involved, either as plaintiff or defendant, during the period of such service or within sixty days thereafter may, in the discretion of the court in which it is pending, on its own motion, and shall, on application to it by such person or some person on his behalf, be stayed as provided in this Act [sections 501 to 591 of this Appendix], unless, in the opinion of the court, the ability of plaintiff to prosecute the action or the defendant to conduct his defense is not materially affected by reason of his military service.
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act is always to be liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of *648 the nation. The discretion that is vested in trial courts to that end is not to be withheld on nice calculations as to whether prejudice may result from absence, or absence result from the service. Absence when one's rights or liabilities are being adjudged is usually prima facie prejudicial. But in some few cases absence may be a policy, instead of the result of military service, and discretion is vested in the courts to see that the immunities of the Act are not put to such unworthy use.
The relief act of 1940 (and likewise the similar act of 1918) was enacted to give the soldier-litigant a shield for defense and not a sword for attack. It was to enable him to serve his country secure in the knowledge that his bona fide civil rights would not be jeopardized in any legal proceeding by reason of his military service. It was not intended to vest him with juridical weapons of offense which he would not have possessed had he remained a civilian. It was likewise not intended that the statutory shield should be used as a screen behind which to engage in legal maneuvers born of policy or of bad faith. In short, it was intended that the serviceman who applies to the court for a stay of legal proceedings under the act must assert bona fide rights and exercise good faith.
End of Document.