Sunday, August 16, 2015

Air Force unlawful command influence decision

Over at CAAFlog, Zach Spilman has a post (with lively discussion, much of it over commenters' real names) on a recent U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals case in which a staff judge advocate telephoned the supervisor and senior rater of a military judge about the judge's rulings on repeated government motions for an Article 39(a) session. The SJA's ex parte calls were entirely improper and it is shocking that after all these years the SJA and the two SJAs higher in the food chain with whom he consulted thought otherwise. Similarly, the judge's supervisor should have told off the SJA rather than pass along the complaint to the trial judge.

The only thing that's good about this case is that the facts were made a matter of public record. The opinion -- how come it's unpublished? -- unfortunately does not reveal the pay grades of the involved officers. Did rank play a role in their interaction?

Note to Air Force TJAG, Military Justice Review Group: Whatever other remedial or disciplinary actions might be appropriate, wouldn't this kind of thing be less likely to occur if Air Force judges, like those in the Army and Coast Guard were afforded fixed terms of office? Time for the Air Force to get in step? Is it a coincidence that United States v. Salyer, 72 M.J. 415 (C.A.A.F. 2013), cited in the CAAFlog post, also arose in a branch of the service that still relies on at-will judges?

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