Saturday, February 13, 2016

Editorial on Obama administration military justice legislative proposal

The Connecticut Law Tribune has this editorial on military justice reform and the Obama administration's December 2015 legislative proposal that grew out of the work of the Military Justice Review Group.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mark your calendar again

The Supreme Court of Canada has set the case of H.M. The Queen v. Cawthorne, No. 36466, for hearing on April 25, 2016. According to the registrar's summary on the court's website:
The respondent was convicted by a general court martial of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography. The pornography was discovered on the respondent’s cellular phone by an individual who had found the phone and who had accessed its content in an attempt to find its owner. The respondent admitted to possessing the pornography, but denied that it was child pornography. The main issue at trial was whether the respondent knowingly accessed and possessed child pornography. The respondent appealed his conviction arguing, among other things, that the military judge erred by failing to grant a mistrial after certain inadmissible evidence was given by a Crown witness. A majority of the Court Martial Appeal Court allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. Veit J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal.
The decision below can be found here

Mark your calendars

On February 18, 2016, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan will hear challenges to cases decided by military commissions under the country's 21st Amendment, according to this report.

The military courts authorization expires on January 7, 2017. According to this article, the government has not taken the steps needed to beef up civilian courts, which was the reason the military courts' jurisdiction was extended to civilians in the first place. Watch for another constitutional amendment.

State and federal military justice reform

Here's an interesting op-ed from the Juneau Empire in Alaska, where the state code of military justice is being revised. The author writes:
In Alaska, state law already requires that civilian authorities prosecute criminal offenses within the National Guard that aren’t of a military nature. What that means is any Guard member accused of sexual abuse would be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office. And more importantly, the officers within his chain of command would have no authority over the case. 
But in the U.S. armed forces, the commanding officer of the accused can exercise prosecutorial discretion that includes an outright dismissal of charges. And even if the commanding officer recommends a court-martial, he or she decides which charges are to be prosecuted and also chooses who will sit on the jury. 
The Military Justice Improvement Reform Act would change that by giving all prosecuting authorities to full-fledged military attorneys outside the chain of command. It’s got bipartisan support that includes unlikely allies such as Sens. Harry Reid, D-NV, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Three quarters of the Senate’s women support the reform, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski
On the other side, 15 of the 20 men in the Senate who have served in the military oppose it, including Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. They and the rest of the bill’s opponents have mainly bought the military brass’ argument that stripping commanders of this responsibility would undermine military order and discipline. 
But the reality is order and discipline are already being compromised by the 52 new cases of unwanted sexual contact that, according to the Pentagon, occur every day. By denying this, the generals are acting more like the Catholic Church hierarchy that’s shielded abusive priests in hopes of preserving the institution’s respectable image.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

No bail for General Sejusa

Remember the case of David Sejusa, the Ugandan four-star general who was recently arrested? He applied for release on bail but was denied by the general court-martial because he could not find an officer of equal rank (how many could there be?) to guarantee his appearance for trial. Civilian sureties -- a lord mayor and a physician --were deemed unqualified. Details here.