transcript of the Nashiri military commission case:
JUDGE VANCE SPATH: Yesterday I listed kind of questions that we need answered, frankly, from a court superior to me. And again, I would have hoped we had started that process. Maybe we have and I haven't seen it, but I don't think so. There's a little bit of it in General Baker's filings in federal court, but not much. That's mostly focused on the contempt issue.
If General Baker's reading the statute correctly and the Manual correctly, he can excuse counsel at any time and we'll be right back here next time. Again, I don't believe he is. Doesn't matter.
We need somebody to tell us, is that really what that says, despite, obviously, every other court system in America thinking differently, despite the clear intent of when people make an appearance, despite the clear difference of learned counsel. Maybe I'm wrong, but nobody's asked anybody in any appellate court or court above me. And then, of course, the other issue is learned counsel.
Is Lieutenant Piette right, that he gets them all the time? Because that's what he thinks, right? He's said that over and over. Any questions? Nope, can't do it without learned counsel, even though I've ruled you don't get learned counsel. Nope.
Because again, the efficient administration of justice means we do this one time, not twice, if we can help it; and that everybody who has an interest doesn't travel down here for the next 25 years doing this. Because that's what we keep doing.
So hopefully somebody is going to take action. I am abating these proceedings indefinitely. I will tell you right now, the reason I'm not dismissing -- I debated it for hours -- I am not rewarding the defense for their clear misbehavior and misconduct. That would be the wrong answer. But I am abating these procedures -- these proceedings indefinitely until a superior court orders me to resume.
And whatever that looks like, either myself or my successor will pick it up and start going. If it is -- the superior court tells me next week, Spath, you abused your discretion, get to work, I'll get to work, or whoever takes my place. Hopefully the appellate court will give us some guidance. Maybe they'll say Lieutenant Piette, you're stuck. Colonel Spath got the law right, you don't get learned counsel if it's not practicable, and it's not practicable. Get to work. And then Lieutenant Piette can sit there and not ask questions from now until we finish the trial.
But that's where we're at. We're done until a superior court tells me to keep going. It can be CMCR. It can be the Washington -- or the District in D.C. They're all superior to me. But that's where we're at.
We need action. We need somebody to look at this process. We need somebody to give us direction. I would suggest it sooner than later, but that's where we're at.
The March hearing, obviously, isn't going to happen, I don't think. Again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we'll have quick guidance from CMCR, and then we'll be here in March.
As I said, I follow the law. I follow orders. I don't just disobey them at will, scoff at the process; but we do have a situation where people are. They've demonstrated it, and we can't fix it without somebody getting involved.
I have great empathy to everybody involved; I really do. I mean that across the board, everybody. It's a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of effort. It is -- it's not easy.
So that's what I meant when I said filings might not be particularly helpful for a little while, Lieutenant Piette.
We are in abatement. We're out. Thank you. We're in recess.Postscript: Charlie Savage's report in The New York Times appears here.