Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Lawyering and military commissions

The al-Nashiri military commission saga continues in federal court in Massachusetts

Stephen Gill is a civilian lawyer and resident of Massachusetts. In 2015 he served as a Navy JAG and legal advisor for the al-Nashiri military commission. He reported to his superiors that some employees were violating a disqualification order issued by Judge Vance Spath ordering them to not work on the case. 

In 2016, al-Nashiri's defense raised these issues and brought Gill (then a civilian) to testify about them. Judge Spath informed Gill that he would need to return the next month to continue his testimony. 

The next month, Gill (still a civilian in Massachusetts) received a subpoena to travel to Virginia to testify in four days. Gill mailed a written application for relief to quash the subpoena, did not receive a response, and did not travel to Virginia as ordered. 

The next day, Gill alleges that 15 deputy marshalls in riot gear and five uniformed police officers in his hometown of Mansfield "stormed" his home with "assault rifles and hand guns drawn and pointed at Mr. Gill." Gill's home was searched, he was shackled, his wallet was taken, and he was forcibly flown to Alexandria, Virginia to testify. 
While detained, a federal public defender attempted to reach Gill. “I understand that you have been detained by the United States military, that you are present in the Eastern District of Virginia, and that you are a civilian citizen of this country,” said the letter, which Gill got only after he finished his testimony and was released from federal custody. Judge Spath did not permit Gill to speak with the lawyer before testifying. 
“In particular, a substantial question may exist whether the U.S. military possesses any authority under our Constitution to detain you outside of ordinary civilian judicial process in time of peace.”
Last week, a Massachusetts federal district court dismissed several of Gill's claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) but allowed Gill's FTCA claims for Trespass and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress to continue.
The opinion notes that, "This Court now notes its own hesitancy to rule on the distinctions between our civilian and military court systems but, at the same time, is cognizant of a founding principle of our Republic that military authority has always been deemed subservient to civil authority." 
The case information is Gill v. United States, 19-cv-12441-NMG, in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Gorton, J.). 

A Miami Herald article describing the incident is here

No comments:

Post a Comment

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).