This site is for the trial practitioner (the military lawyer) of military justice, and for the information of U.S. active duty, Guard, and reserve service-members, their spouses and their families. Our goal is to focus on trial practice issues in cases arising under the UCMJ and being tried at court martial. We hasten to add that nothing on this blog should be taken as specific legal advice for a specific client.

In 2002, Lester Packingham became a convicted sex offender at the age of 21, after he pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child – having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Packingham got into hot water with the law again in 2010, when he posted on Facebook to thank God for having a traffic ticket dismissed. After a police officer saw his post, Packingham was prosecuted and convicted under a North Carolina law that makes it a felony for a convicted sex offender to use social-networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that allow minors to create accounts. Today Packingham has something else to be grateful for, and he can take to social media to express that appreciation because the Supreme Court agreed with him that the North Carolina law violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

So writes Amy Howe on SCOTUSBlog, about Packingham v. North Carolina.

I have discussed before how very difficult it is for an appellant to get a federal court to review and overturn a court-martial conviction.

Here is Randolph v. United States, a federal circuit case reviewing an attempt to get relief via the Court of Federal Claims.

The United States Department of the Navy (Navy) dishonorably discharged Jerome Randolph, the pro se appellant, after a court-martial convicted him for sexual assault and falsifying a statement about that assault. After this discharge, Mr. Randolph repeatedly sought expungement of his court-martial conviction, as well as an award of back pay and an upgraded discharge status, before the Board for Correction of Naval Records (Board). The Board denied him any relief. He ultimately filed suit against the United States (government) in the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) seeking the same relief he sought from the Board, as well as claiming relief from defamation. The Claims Court concluded that, in light of his court-martial conviction, the Board reasonably refused to award him back pay and upgrade his discharge status. The Claims Court also held that it had no jurisdiction to expunge his court-martial conviction or to proceed with his defamation claim. Even after we broadly construe Mr. Randolph’s arguments on appeal, we affirm.

The CAAF daily journal for 15 June 2017 has this entry:  No. 17-0003/AR. U.S. v. Christopher B. Hukill. CCA 20140939. On consideration of Appellee’s petition for reconsideration of this Court’s decision, United States v. Hukill, 76 M.J. 219 (C.A.A.F. 2017), it is ordered that said petition for reconsideration be, and the same is, hereby denied.

To refresh.

CAAF decided the Army case of United States v. Hukill, 76 M.J. 219, No. 17-0003/AR (slip op.beside-link-icon), on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. A short opinion reiterates the rationale of United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. Jun. 27, 2016) .  “[T]he use of evidence of charged conduct as M.R.E. 413 propensity evidence for other charged conduct in the same case is error, regardless of the forum, the number of victims, or whether the events are connected.” Slip op. at 6. CAAF reverses the decision of the Army CCA that found Hills inapplicable in judge-alone trials, reverses the appellant’s convictions, and authorizes a rehearing.

I am a fan of this website as a resource to find ways to argue on behalf of a client, just as I am a fan of restorative justice.

The CCRC is pleased to announce the launch of its Compilation of Federal Collateral Consequences (CFCC), a searchable online database of the restrictions and disqualifications imposed by federal statutes and regulations because of an individual’s criminal record. Included in the CFCC are laws authorizing or requiring criminal background checks as a condition of accessing specific federal benefits or opportunities.

Black sailors more likely than white sailors to be referred to court-martial, report says

Brock Vergakis, The Virginian-Pilot, 7 June 2017.  The VP summarizes:

Black sailors were 40 percent more likely than white sailors to be referred to a court-martial over a two-year period examined by an advocacy group that focuses on military justice. . . .

LtCol CT called the possibility that defense counsel might be asking potential witnesses about evidence governed by MIL. R. EVID. 412 and 513 “gross and cruel.”  All this caused Capt X (the defense counsel) to audibly sob at counsel table, and she was unable to continue.

Unfortunately, it appears that the words and actions of the trial counsel (prosecutor) caused the defense counsel to make “several decisions about the appellant’s representation that were against her client’s interest, against the advice of the DHQE, and consistent with a concern for her and her husband’s situation.”

Sadly, today we report the decision in United States v. Hale, decided 31 May 2017, by the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.  Of seven assignments of error raised on appeal, the court reversed on this issue:  “III. That the appellant received ineffective assistance from his trial defense counsel, who were laboring under a conflict of interest[.]”

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It is essential that this parallel military justice system be seen as fair, just, [Constitution] compliant, and operating effectively, both at home and abroad. I note in passing that the civilian justice system also provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction in several contexts. However, unlike the civilian justice system, the extra-territorial reach of the parallel military justice system is essential to its daily operations: persons subject to the CSD are regularly required to serve abroad and complete overseas assignments or training exercises in international or foreign territories.

This parallel system of military justice is not a fossilized system of law. It is subject to the [Constitution] and was subject to tremendous change and adaptation even before the Constitution’s enactment.

And now we diverge–back to Canada.

https://globalmjreform.blogspot.com/2017/06/targeting-and-law-of-war.html

Reposting a new publication for judge advocates supporting investigations into law of war violations.  In particular, it relates to targeting decisions and the aftermath.  There are specific points to assist in evaluating criminal responsibility under the UCMJ.