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.

The answer is possibly, but it requires some very specific analysis using the Reynolds test.  The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals has decided United States v. Hyppolite, II, where this issue arose.

In this case, the prosecution sought to use evidence of different allegations of a sexual offense to show that, “Appellant’s conduct admitted to prove each charged offense could properly be used under Mil. R. Evid. 404(b) as evidence that Appellant had a pattern or common plan of engaging in sexual conduct with his friends after they had been drinking and were asleep or trying to fall asleep.”

“The crux of Appellant’s position throughout trial and on appeal is that the sexual conduct alleged in each specification was separate and distinct and must stand on its own. Appellant contends that the allegations were not sufficiently similar to show a common plan and that allowing evidence of one charged offense as evidence of a separate charged offense was tantamount to allowing the factfinder to consider evidence of Appellant’s propensity to engage in sexual misconduct. Appellant, citing United States v. Hukill, 76 M.J. 219 (C.A.A.F. 2017), and United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F 2016), renews on appeal his claim that the military judge misapplied Mil. R. Evid. 404(b) and Mil. R. Evid. 403 and improperly allowed charged offenses to be used as propensity evidence to prove other charged offenses?

On occasion, a military judge will make a clemency recommendation.

In United States v. Coleman, the military judge did just that.

“that the convening authority or any other authority has the authority to dismiss Specification 2 of Charge V, I recommend that such authority dismiss Specification 2 of Charge V.”

Some years ago the AFCCA decided several cases in which it “held” that the CAAF erred in applicable decisions and effectively “overrule” the CAAF. CAAF, of course, told the AFCCA that they cannot overrule the CAAF and should follow CAAF’s decision.  Now it seems the Army Court of Criminal Appeals may be doing something similar; at least that’s the impression given from two recent grants by CAAF.

In United States v. Tovarchavev (link to ACCA) the issue granted is:

WHETHER THE ARMY COURT ERRED, FIRST, IN FINDING THAT THIS COURT OVERRULED SUB SILENCIO THE SUPREME COURT HOLDING IN CHAPMAN v. CALIFORNIA, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967), AND THIS COURT’S OWN HOLDINGS IN UNITED STATES v. WOLFORD, 62 M.J. 418, 420 (C.A.A.F. 2006), AND IN UNITED STATES v. HILLS, 75 M.J. 350, 357 (C.A.A.F. 2016), AND, CONSEQUENTLY, IN TESTING FOR PREJUDICE IN THIS CASE USING THE STANDARD FOR NONCONSTITUTIONAL ERROR.

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Appellant personally raises three matters pursuant to United States v. Grostefon, 12 M.J. 431 (C.M.A. 1982),one of which warrants discussion and relief.

My colleagues and I often discuss the value of Grostefon.  My personal theory is to be robust in asserting Grostefon errors on behalf of the client.  This is based on my years of experience.  I have seen the appellate courts take a Grosty issue, make something of it, and grant relief.  I was reminded of the merit in putting in Grostefon issues with the recent Army Court of Criminal Appeals case, United States v. Coleman.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that any relief is meaningful, as the result in Coleman shows.

11 October 2018.  Orders Granting Petition for Review

No. 18-0339/AF. U.S. v. Scott A. Meakin. CCA 38968. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER APPELLANT’S CONVICTION FOR ENGAGING IN ANONYMOUS, PRIVATE, AND CONSENSUAL COMMUNICATIONS WITH AN UNKNOWN PARTNER(S) IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS HOME WAS LEGALLY SUFFICIENT.

After a lengthy but successful appeal, I get this message from a client.

As of this morning I am officially off the Sex Offender registration list (which is great cause I need a job). My family and I just wanted to again send you both a big thank you for all the hard work and great advice you put in over the past few years.

Frederic Bloom, Character Flaws.  89 U. COLORADO L. REV. 1101 (2018).

Character evidence doctrine is infected by error. It is riddled with a set of pervasive mistakes and misconceptions—a group of gaffes and glitches involving Rule 404(b)’s “other purposes” (like intent, absence of accident, and plan) that might be called “character flaws.” This Essay identifies and investigates those flaws through the lens of a single, sensational case: United States v. Henthorn. By itself, Henthorn is a tale worth telling—an astonishing story of danger and deceit, malice and murder. But Henthorn is more than just a stunning story. It is also an example and an opportunity, a chance to consider character flaws in evidence law more broadly and an occasion to remedy them too. This Essay makes use of that occasion. It critically examines Henthorn: the arguments offered, the tactics deployed, the opinions written, the evidence used. And it frames Henthorn as a window into contemporary character flaws more broadly, hoping to prompt an overdue conversation, both in the courtroom and in the classroom, about the flaws that now infect character evidence.

Heather Ellis Cucolo and Michael L. Perlin, “The Strings in the Books Ain’t Pulled and Persuaded”: How the Use of Improper Statistics and Unverified Data Corrupts the Judicial Process in Sex Offender Cases.

In a legal earthquake for the military justice system, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada (CMAC) has split 2-1 to strike down s. 130(1)(a) of the National Defence Act (NDA) because the majority held that the provision — which deems Criminal Code offences committed in Canada by military members to be “service offences” — deprives military accused of their Charter s. 11(f) right to trial by jury.

The Sept. 19 majority decision by CMAC Justices Jocelyne Gagne and Vital Ouellette (Chief Justice Richard Bell dissented) ruled that to deprive a military accused of a trial by jury for offences punishable by more than five years in prison, and that were committed within Canada, is not justified under s. 1 of the Charter as a reasonable and demonstrably justified limit in a free and democratic society: R. v. Beaudry 2018 CMAC 4.

The Lawyers Daily (Canada).

A retired judge in Iowa recently defended himself in a hearing of a contested order by saying, “I didn’t write this thing.” A review of Judge Edward Jacobson’s rulings found that he had failed to notify the parties in 13 cases where he had signed proposed rulings written by lawyers (presumably the lawyer involved in the litigation). Judge Jacobson said he believed it was common practice to have the lawyers in the case write the orders.

I think the judge is correct – it is common practice for the court to ask one of the attorneys to write orders at various stages of any case. The difference is that this is usually common knowledge to the parties involved in the case, and opposing counsel is consulted before submission of the proposed order, or at some stage before the order becomes final. The request for the order writing is usually done in the presence of both attorneys, so all parties are fully aware of the plan. This was not done in several of Judge Jacobson’s cases.

This practice raises a question though, should this be the practice at all? Why is it that the work emerging from a judge’s chambers is primarily drafted by a lawyer involved in the litigation? Isn’t a judge who does this just shifting her workload to the lawyer who will presumably bill the client for the time spent drafting an order? Or is it proper and more expedient for the lawyers in the case to do it themselves? They are better acquainted with the intricacies of the issues that must be addressed in any order, and would be ready to critique a judge-drafted order that missed important items anyway, which would slow down the process.