Friday, October 31, 2014

Exam question (except this is for real)

Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst
Next Tuesday is Election Day in the United States. Among the numerous hotly contested races is one for United States Senator from Iowa. One of the candidates is a state legislator who is a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. She has made disparaging remarks about President Barack Obama. The Iowa Code of Military Justice (ICMJ) provides:
Any person subject to this code who uses contemptuous words against the president, the governor, or the governor of any other state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which that person may be serving, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
See also Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) art. 88. Consider the candidate's comments as quoted in this Des Moines Register letter to the editor from a Vietnam-era veteran:
Earlier this year, [State Sen. Joni] Ernst said that President Obama (her commander in chief) has "overstepped his bounds" and that he was a "dictator" and that he "should be removed from office" or "impeached."
The veteran also wrote:
Our commanding officer told us, "Nobody in the military is allowed to publicly say anything negative or contemptuous about our commander in chief." They told us that we would be prosecuted if we did. [Emphasis added.]
1. Has this candidate violated either the UCMJ (as the letter-writer contends) or the ICMJ? If so, by making which of the quoted comments?
2. Is she subject to the UCMJ when not in federal service?
3. Are her remarks protected by the First Amendment?


  1. Everyone is encouraged to comment -- but not anonymously. Thanks.

  2. Does the Code of Military Justice apply to a person even when he/she is not in active service or is not mobilized?


Comments are subject to moderation and must be submitted under your real name. Anonymous comments will not be posted (even though the form seems to permit them).