It took how long?!%#@
Well, in United States v. Gonzalez, a Coast Guard general court-martial, the sentence was announced on 27 July 2011. The case did not get docketed with the CGCCA until 19 December 2014. That means a total of 1,241 days went by before the appellate court began a mandated review under UCMJ art. 66(c).
And people wonder why appeals take so long.
But, there’s something even more significant about the process buried within the reasons for the delay in docketing the case with the court.
The Coast Guard’s Appellate Government Counsel provided the following explanation of the 1,071-day delay between CA action and docketing with this court in an affidavit dated 20 March 2015:
The servicing legal office conducted an R.C.M. 1112 review in both cases. Neither reviewer noted the fact that the BCD was approved (albeit suspended or remitted) and that the cases should immediately be referred to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. When the records arrived in CG-0946, the records custodian, likely seeing the R.C.M. 1112 review, assumed the cases would be reviewed under Article 69(b). They were processed as Article 69(b) cases and sent to the office designated to handle Article 69 cases without having been reviewed by an attorney in CG-0946. The records were not reviewed by the Article 69 reviewing officer until late fall of 2014, at which time the reviewer recognized that the sentence in both cases included an approved BCD. The cases were then forwarded to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals on 19 December 2014.
That’s right–it appears that people who file a petition for a review by The Judge Advocate General under UCMJ art. 69(b), or have a review under UCMJ art. 69(a), wait months, years before a review might even start. Congress should take another–the fifth I think–look at changing how a convicted servicemember is allowed to appeal any conviction, even a conviction that is sub-jurisdictional to a CCA.
We understand the Coast Guard to be a small Service, see United States v. Sullivan, but it would seem to be no small service to an accused that they get a prompt appeal.