Sunday, December 17, 2017

Military justice changes coming in the Bay State

Governor Charlie Baker has proposed S. 2236, a bill that would establish a Massachusetts Code of Military Justice. At present the Commonwealth is one of the few states without its own military justice code. The measure has been referred to committee and can be downloaded from the General Court's website. It is described as putting the state's troops on the same footing, whether they are in federal (Title 10) or state (Title 32) status. Scott Merzbach of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has the story here. Excerpt:
Lt. Col. Shannon McLaughlin, state judge advocate for the Massachusetts National Guard, said in a phone interview Thursday that she is excited about how the changes will affect the 8,131 members in the state.

“This makes sure our operations are accurately represented by the law,” McLaughlin said.

McClaughlin said Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that doesn’t have its own uniform code governing conduct, meaning members are at risk of having military crimes prosecuted in different ways depending on whether the member is serving in a federal or state capacity.

Based on the American Bar Association’s Model State Code of Military Justice, the proposal will provide consistency and establish a series of military crimes that parallel those found in the federal Uniform Code of Military Justice. It also establishes procedures for the convening and conduct of courts-martial for specific military offenses.

“It gives our commanders ability to instill good order and discipline among the troops,” McLaughlin said.

Should a National Guard member commit a non-military crime, prosecution would still be handled in state court by a district attorney.
Proposed Article 2(b) provides:
Subject matter jurisdiction is established if a nexus exists between an offense, either military or non-military, and the state military force. Courts-martial have primary jurisdiction of military offenses as defined in article 1(a)(14) of this code. A proper civilian court has primary jurisdiction of a non-military offense when an act or omission violates both this code and local criminal law, foreign or domestic. In such a case, a court-martial may be initiated only after the civilian authority has declined to prosecute or dismissed the charge, provided jeopardy has not attached. Jurisdiction over attempted crimes, conspiracy crimes, solicitation, and accessory crimes must be determined by the underlying offense.

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