Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When does it make sense to demand a court-martial?

Cdr. Sean D. Kearns, USN and
Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick
The Virginian-Pilot has this article about a naval officer who was offered an administrative reprimand but opted to be tried by court-martial, was acquitted and promoted to Commander, and is currently assigned as commanding officer of "Old Ironsides," USS Constitution. It is unclear why then-Lieutenant Commander Sean D. Kearns was afforded the right to reject mast in light of the "vessel exception" to that right, given his prior assignment as executive officer of USS San AntonioSee art. 15, UCMJ. Clarification will be welcome. Real names only, please.

1 comment:

  1. I remember this case and some of the discussion that was had about the LCDR being afforded the right to refuse nonjudicial punishment (NJP). If recollection serves it was because he had been detached and transferred from the ship before the adverse actions were begun. Because he was no longer "attached or embarked" in a vessel he had the right to decline NJP. I believe also this case lead to a change in practice - personnel are not detached from a vessel before any investigation and action was complete. The relative merits of the vessel exception is a different discussion.

    I am posting a couple of links which discuss this incident and the issue of responsibility and accountability of those in command or leadership positions. This is something that is relevant to the discussion of commander directed military justice actions, with particular regard to cases unrelated to discipline or duty performance charges.

    Here in the U.S. military justice community we had a healthy discussion about the number of senior Navy officers (and enlisted leaders) being relieved for cause based on misconduct or other errors in duty. The publicity about these matters seemed to increase in 2010 until now. You can see some background through this link.

    This included the DFC of JAG officers as reported here.


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