Saturday, September 30, 2017

Commander-centric justice again in the spotlight

Consider this article by Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post. Excerpt:
U.S. military commanders have wielded near-total authority to impose discipline or criminal charges­ since the Revolutionary War, but their role has come under sharp criticism in recent years.

Most commanders have little, if any, legal training. Congress has debated whether some of their powers should be ceded to military prosecutors, especially in sexual assault ­cases.

The Pentagon has vigorously resisted, arguing that commanders need to retain their authority to maintain order and discipline in their units and that they receive plenty of advice from military lawyers.

Lawmakers have started to pay close attention to how commanders deal with sexual assault and harassment. In 2013, members of the Senate raised an outcry after learning of two separate cases­ in which Air Force lieutenant generals had granted clemency to convicted sex offenders. Both generals retired under pressure.

Under military law, there are few hard-and-fast rules that dictate which cases­ should go to trial. Commanders can impose discipline for serious offenses — or order courts-martial for trivial ones. In March, for example, an enlisted member of the Air Force from New Jersey was convicted at court-martial for being six minutes late to a meeting with his commander.

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