Friday, July 31, 2015

Military unions: the view from South Africa

Pikkie Greeff
Former military lawyer Pikkie Greeff, who is National Secretary of the South African National Defence Union, wrote this fascinating op-ed a couple of months ago, shedding light on SANDU's view of its role. The whole piece is worth reading; here's an excerpt:
"The fact that one in three soldiers belongs to the military Union SANDU, which has a fierce human rights protection record and a reputation for not taking cover on matters of national concern, says a lot about the collective awareness of Constitutional rights and obligations among soldiers. Unlawful deployments which are at odds with the Constitution will simply not be tolerated by the very union of soldiers themselves. While on this topic, let me state clearly (as many have asked me about it) - SANDU does not opine on the merits of a deployment decision. It is not the mandate of a military Union to question the merits of an operational decision. SANDU will, however, fiercely fight against a procedurally unlawful decision to deploy because that directly places soldiers on the ground at risk of legal liability and flouts the Constitutional order. SANDU will also vehemently defend the concerns of soldiers such as equipment malfunction or ration shortages whilst they are deployed."

New chief judge at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

Hon. Charles E. "Chip" Erdmann
Judge Charles E. "Chip" Erdmann will become the 12th chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces when Chief Judge James E. Baker's term expires (today). He will be chief for two years, after which Judge Scott W. Stucky will move to the center chair.

The confirmation process as leverage

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Roll Call reports here that Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D.-NY) has lifted her anonymous hold on the nomination of Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC, to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The bone of contention had to do with access to records relating to sexual assault at each service's largest base and at four training commands. Excerpt:
“I’m very grateful for Secretary [Ashton B.] Carter’s leadership and his determination to root out sexual violence,” said Gillibrand, who has publicly argued with military leaders and defense officials over her efforts to take the decision for prosecuting sexual assault and other major crimes out of the chain of command. 
Gillibrand’s 2014 report involved a review of 107 case files that shed further light on the “true scope of sexual violence in military communities, including two large but overlooked segments of the military population — military spouses, and civilian women living near military bases,” according to that report. 
Those documents, she said in her report, suggest spouses and other civilians are particularly vulnerable. The military justice system, she wrote, “continues to struggle to provide justice.” 
The updated report will also include information on training bases. 
“This is an issue that we continue to fail at and we need more information to understand the whole depth and expanse of the problem,” she said Wednesday. “Reviewing documents and actually understanding what happens in these cases is an excellent first step to understanding how to solve the problem.”
Sen. Gillibrand will be supporting Gen. Dunford's confirmation. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

FY16 budget for U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

The FY2016 budget estimate for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is online and available here. Bottom line: $14,078,000. The Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed that estimate in June in this report (p. 58).

John E. Sparks to be nominated to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

President Obama has announced his intention to nominate John E. Sparks to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. According to the White House announcement:
John E. Sparks is the Commissioner to the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a position he has held since 2000. Prior to this, Mr. Sparks was Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Navy from 1999 to 2000 and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture from 1998 to 1999. From 1996 to 1998, Mr. Sparks was a Deputy Legal Advisor for the National Security Council. He served as Military Assistant to the General Counsel at the Department of the Navy from 1994 to 1996 and as a Military Judge at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1991 to 1994. Mr. Sparks served as military defense counsel, military prosecutor, and Chief Legal Assistance Officer from 1986 to 1991, and held various positions as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1976 to 1986. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998. Mr. Sparks received a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy [1976] and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut [1986].
If confirmed, Mr. Sparks will fill the seat currently held by Chief Judge James E. Baker, who also served in the Marine Corps and at the National Security Council, and whose term expires tomorrow.

Not since Robinson O. Everett was named to the court in 1980 has a former commissioner at the court been named to the bench. It is not unheard of for a new judge to succeed the judge for whom he or she clerked. Justice Harry A. Blackmun clerked for and later succeeded Judge John B. Sanborn, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. clerked for Justice (as he then was) William H. Rehnquist, whom he succeeded. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy named James R. Browning, Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At age 36, Horace Gray went from Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to a seat on that court, from which President Chester A. Arthur named him to the U.S. Supreme Court. No instances come to mind, however, of a person making the transition directly from law clerk to federal judge.

Chief Judge Baker will be succeeded by Judge Charles E. "Chip" Erdmann, whose term expires in two years.