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.

To get a search warrant for home surveillance equipment, the affidavit for the warrant has to show some inference or fact that there is, in fact, one to be found there. The mere fact they are a lot cheaper these days isn’t enough to get one. Foreman v. State, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 7264 (Tex. App. – Houston (14th Dist.) Aug. 31, 2018):

The parties have not cited, nor have we found, a case in which the Court of Criminal Appeals has determined under what circumstances a magistrate could reasonably infer that an electronic device exists in a particular location. This court has required specific facts to support an inference that those devices exist before we have allowed seizure or search of electronic devices pursuant to a warrant. This is demonstrated by our jurisprudence surrounding the searches of computers/cameras and cellphones.

The court finds that “the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply here. Contrary to the government’s assertion, this case directly fits the Supreme Court’s admonition in Leon that ‘[s]uppression … remains an appropriate remedy if the magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant was misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known was false except for his reckless disregard of the truth.’ Leon, 468 U.S at 923; see also id. at 926 (‘[S]uppression is appropriate … if the officers were dishonest or reckless in preparing their affidavit or could not have harbored an objectively reasonable belief in the existence of probable cause.’).” There was nothing to support probable cause except the officer’s experience. No facts, no nothing.

United States v. Roman, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145893 (D. Mass. Aug. 28, 2018).  I wonder if there’s something about the MCIO search authorization requests to challenge?  Much of their declaration is supposition, speculation, and “experience” as they go on a fishing expedition.

This case is before us for a fourth time. The petitioner, a former service member, seeks extraordinary relief from this court in the nature of a writ of error coram nobis or, in the alternative, in the nature of a writ of audita querela, under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a). The petitioner avers that his appellate defense counsel were ineffective in representing him by failing to raise as error Military Rule Of Evidence (Mil. R. Evid.)413, Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2005 ed.) issues raised at trial. Alternatively, he asserts that even if his appellate defense counsel were not ineffective and no writ of error coram nobis should issue, a writ of audita querela should issue to prevent continued enforcement of his conviction—and the resulting sex offender registration requirements—in light of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces’s (CAAF) decision in United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. 2016). The petitioner claims Hills should apply retroactively to his case.

Burleson v. United States, No. 200700143, 2018 CCA LEXIS 87, at *1-2 (N-M Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 26, 2018).

Audita querela is a latin term meaning “the complaint having been heard.” A defendant can seek a rehearing of a decided matter due to the newly discovered evidence or newly existing legal defenses, through a writ of audita querela. A writ of audita querela attacks a judgment that becomes incorrect later because of circumstances that arose after the judgment was issued.

I confess to confusion about the post-trial actions of a convening authority.  When I first began trials in 1980 the right to clemency was robust and generally, the CA could do just about anything.  I’m seeing more recent cases with an issue about what can and can’t be done by the CA.

Congress significantly changed the statutory scheme in Article 60, UCMJ, through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. See Pub. L. No. 113–66, § 1702, 127 Stat. 954–958 (2013) (codified at 10 U.S.C. §860(c)(4)(A)). What had been authority “to modify the findings and sentence of a court-martial [a]s a matter of command prerogative involving the sole discretion of the convening authority” became limited power to make only certain modifications under a restricted set of circumstances. Article 60(c)(4)(A), UCMJ, now provides that “the convening authority . . . may not disapprove, commute, or suspend in whole or in part an adjudged sentence of confinement for more than six months or a sentence of dismissal, dishonorable discharge, or bad conduct discharge.” 10 U.S.C. § 860(c)(4)(A). Congress set

forth only two narrow exceptions to these limitations[.]

While doing some research on Wegner’s Ironic Process Theory, I came across this case–Volkmer v. United States, 13 F.2d 594 (6th Cir. 1926).

The other ground presents a more serious question. It is based on the concluding argument of the assistant district attorney, during which the following occurred:

“Assistant District Attorney: A skunk is always a skunk; you can decorate him any way you want to.

USNI news reports https://news.usni.org/2018/08/09/navy-to-retire-poor-performing-senior-commanders-and-captains

Read NAVADMIN 193/18  NOTICE OF CONVENING FY-19 ACTIVE-DUTY NAVY COMMANDER AND CAPTAIN SELECTIVE EARLY RETIREMENT BOARDS

Readers will be aware of the attention given to senior Navy officers who are getting in trouble for misconduct or poor performance.  The collision cases may also be a factor behind the following initiative.

As this case demonstrates, the novelty of an assimilative charging decision under Article 134 often wears off during the course of an appeal,

Says ACCA in a footnote to United States v. Meredith, 7 August 2018.

Specification 1 of Charge II alleged appellant violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 10 U.S.C. § 1030, by obtaining the sex videos from HN SS’s and KS’s computer. We agree with the parties that the evidence for the Article 134 offense assimilating the CFAA, specifically, 18 U.C.S. § 1030(a)(2), was legally and factually insufficient.

From friend BW.

State commission calls blood-spatter testimony in murder case ‘not … scientifically supported’ By Pamela Colloff, ProPublica, July 24, 201

 An influential state commission said the blood-spatter analysis used to convict a former Texas high school principal of murdering his wife in 1985 was “not accurate or scientifically supported” and the expert who testified was “entirely wrong.” The findings of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a national leader in forensic science reform, called into question the conviction of Joe Bryan, who has now spent more than 30 years in prison. Bryan was the subject of a two-part investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine in May that questioned the accuracy of the bloodstain pattern analysis used to convict Bryan, as well as the training of the experts who testify in such cases.

Navy Times reports the NMCCA decision in United States v. Saugen.  “Ensign Joseph P. Saugen, 26, remains in San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to two specifications of possessing child pornography and another for distributing the illicit videos.”

In Saugen, the Appellant executed a pretrial agreement.  One of the standard terms in that agreement was,

to waive all motions except those that are otherwise nonwaivable pursuant to [RULE FOR COURTS-MARTIAL] 705(c)(1)(B).  I have not been compelled to waive my right to due process, the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the court-martial, the right to a speedy trial, the right to raise the issue of unlawful command influence, or any other motion that cannot be waived.  I have no motions to bring and I am not aware of any motion that was waived pursuant to this provision. [1]

For the past two years, the Defense Security Service (DSS) has been advising security officers to submit periodic reinvestigations for Tier 5 (Top Secret) investigations at the 6 year mark, rather than 5 years. The move was an effort to reduce the growing security clearance backlog, and allow the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) to make initial investigations a priority. Like most directives, however, implementation has created confusion across some offices. Security officers who merely look at the date without the context of the policy directive may have refused access to individuals with out of scope investigations, despite numerous policy memos noting that security clearance eligibility doesn’t expire if the candidate remains in-access.

In a sign the government aims to keep the 6-year PR rather than move back to 5 years, the Pentagon recently issued guidance clarifying that access to Special Access Programs (SAP) may continue even if investigations are past 6 years.

Previously, the personnel requirements for SAP were: